Car makers may have got better over the last 50 years at protecting drivers in a crash, but much of the progress has been at the expense of those outside the vehicle.
There’s a blind spot where road danger’s concerned. And we’re not talking about societal apathy – we mean an actual, real-life blind spot.
Alongside a fashion for high automotive waistlines (the line between the bottom of the windows and the bodywork), which produces ever-smaller windows, car makers have made vehicles safer for their occupants by strengthening, and thereby increasing, the size of pillars.
So large have windscreen pillars become in some cars that they have a tiny window (and frankly useless) window built into them.
At the back of the car, things are even worse. The large pillars and high waistline conspire to constrict visibility to such an extent, rear view cameras become a necessity. However, the issue of poor visibility goes far beyond the ease with which a car can be parked – it poses a very real danger to those outside the vehicle.
Blind spot technology
Having done so much to create the blind spot problem in the first place, car makers now throw tech at the problem.
Rear view cameras are an imperfect answer to the problems caused by poor visibility that’s become baked into car design. They might offer a wide-angle view and work well in poor light, but they encourage a reliance on the dashboard screen. Safe reversing now requires a driver to juggle their attention between the dash and rear-view mirrors – a task made trickier because the fields of view are different. In a similar vein, Jaguar developed cameras to ‘see through’ the windscreen pillars that do such a good job of obscuring a driver’s view.
For its part, Volkswagen recently unveiled a blind spot publicity campaign that does its best to steer responsibility back towards the driver.
The reliance on technology to make pedestrians and cyclists visible to motorists looks set to make a sinister turn. If you think fitting pedestrians and cyclists with transponders to prevent them being run over by driverless cars sounds back-to-front, not to mention a little dystopian, prepare yourselves for some next-level, high-tech victim blaming. Read more.
The ethical choice
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