, , ,

Detroit stupidity has been an ongoing problem for me, as simple solutions to the problems which they have created seem to evade these intelligent people. My question: Do the designers of these cars ever actually drive them? They desperately need real world hands-on experience with their products. For example, in an effort to make their cars look sleek, or whatever, they have sloped the windshield toward the horizontal as much as possible. That may make the cars more efficient when moving through the air at high speed, and it pleases the artistic eye of the designers and apparently the public, but it also makes the car more difficult to see out of. That creates more accidents and thus more injuries and fatalities. But what I want to point out now is a problem with the reflection off the inside of the windshield which is created by the reflections off the top of the dashboard.

This dashboard glare can be very strong, especially if the dashboard top has some light color and it is even worse if it also has some pattern. The light being reflected off of the dashboard may be stronger than that being reflected off of the highway ahead. This becomes very apparent when you are driving through a forest, with a low angle of sunlight, where the car is moving quickly between full sunlight and complete shadow. Or perhaps even more dangerous is a city situation where sometimes the tall buildings are creating a total shadow on the road ahead, but your car, and its dashboard, is in complete sunshine. In the worst of these situations, the visibility on the road ahead of people or other things drops to zero. Strangely, if you were standing in the exact same location, wearing a baseball cap to shade your eyes from the sun, the visibility into the shadows would be nearly normal. It is the reflected dashboard top which creates the problem.

In the olden days of my “first car,” the early 1930’s when Model A Fords were the most common car, the windshield was vertical and this problem with reflections simply didn’t exist. My 1964 Dodge Dart had slightly tilted windows but the angle was such that the line of sight to the road and the reflection off the windshield aligned in such a way that the reflection was of the floor. That didn’t cause any visual conflict at all because that area was always in shadow. My 1996 Geo Prizm (Toyota Corolla) has the windshield tilted in such a way that the reflection does interfere with clear vision of the road, so I put some black velvet covering on top of the dashboard which eliminates most of the problem. I have driven some current cars and they have this reflective glare problem even worse because the dashboards have been of a middle grey color and made of shiny plastic. That problem is compounded by having the driver moved further back and away from the windshield which means your eyes come closer to being focused at infinity on the road and simultaneously on the reflected dashboard.

This problem could be controlled somewhat by placing a black velvet cloth on the dashboard. That absorbs most of the sunlight and reduces the glare to a modest level. That solution has the problem of absorbing heat as well as light, making the interior of the car hotter when the sun shines on it. If the cars were designed with a louvered light inlet rather like a venetian blind facing up then the light could enter into a well where it and the heat could be trapped. The heat could then be blown out of the car with a fan or with ram air when the car was moving.

This may all sound a little confusing to describe, but the glare is certainly real enough. The strange thing is that there is a problem at all, because the designers at Detroit and everywhere else could have solved this problem. Either they are totally unconscious, or they never drive their own cars in daytime with the sun shining on the dashboard, or possibly their styling considerations override any functionality of the basic operation of the vehicles. Or perhaps as I wrote two years ago:

“You can’t cure stupid!” especially Detroit-stupid.”