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Why Transparent Car Pillars Won’t Stop SMIDSY Crashes

Reading this article on “transparent“ pillars was thrilling, but I just have to express my skepticism as far as how this technology hopes to put an end to the damn SMIDSY accidents involving motorcycles. I will definitely not downplay the new prototype technology Jaguar Land Rover is working on, but it will do rather little to prevent drivers from making maneuvers so easily excused by the unnerving “sorry mate I didn’t see you” line.
Having access to a technology which sort of eliminates the visual barrier the A, B and C pillars put in the line of sight of a driver’s line of sight is a most welcome improvement in road safety. The problem is that the most infamous crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle barely seem to be caused by pillar-impeded sight. Analyzing the most common crash scenarios involving a bike and a car, we’ll discover that “not seeing” is in fact “not looking,” so transparent pillars or not, people not looking out for bikes will not see them.

The transparent pillar technology is, however, quite promising when it comes to parking and maneuvers in a limited space. Being able to see what is behind the C/D pillar will definitely make maneuvers in small places much easier, even though most modern cars come with parking sensors and they are getting more and more accurate.

Likewise, looking “through” the B and A pillars could technically improve road safety, provided the driver is actually looking in that direction. If he or she enters the junction without checking the road first, transparent pillars are of no use. And it’s really sad that many crashes involving motorcycles are caused by this very scenario, while they could have been avoided altogether if only drivers would pay more attention to the approaching traffic.

Again, being able to see through the pillar obstructing the blind spot behind the car is of absolutely no help when a driver decides to change lanes without checking his mirror and thus not observing the approaching motorcycle. In most such cases, when a driver decides to cut a rider off, we can almost hear the sirens of the ambulance, save for the rare occasions when the rider can brake hard enough to stop, swerve past the car (if space allows) or at least impact it at very low speed.

The biggest problem with the SMIDSY excuse is that it is sort of a euphemism. “Sorry mate, I didn’t LOOK for you” is a much more accurate way of putting things. And if we lived in a Liar Liar-like world, “only now I’m sorry dude, for not looking both directions through the high-tech transparent pillars of my car. Anyway, wtf were you doing, why haven’t you stopped?”

Again, we’re talking about cutting edge technology which transforms the cars beyond the wildest dreams the most optimistic manufacturers had say, 10 years ago, and this is a very good thing which has decent potential of making the roads safer. Still, some of the problems plaguing the world of motorcycles are simpler yet harder to solve.

No device will be capable to force the driver to watch out for incoming bikes, and drivers turning left (or right in the Commonwealth and several more places) in the way of a motorcycle are still going to be a major hazard for riders. Likewise, forgetting about the mirrors prior to changing lanes or making direction changes without using the turn signals are not going to be solved too soon. At least not until drivers become more careful and start paying the necessary attention to the traffic.

Dreaming a bit about things which may come in the future, we could picture a camera array linked to a traffic recognition and analysis computer (TRAC, see, I already have a name for it!) which would be able to scan the surroundings of the vehicle and detect potential dangers. Sure, this has small changes to save the day when a rider is doing 100 mph (160 km/h) in the city, but in common scenarios, it might just work.

When the TRAC spots a motorcycle approaching an intersection and the driver fails to slow down or check for traffic, the system could trigger an alert, highlight the bike on the pillar-projected image, engage the brakes and prevent the crash.

But until the TRAC becomes reality, those who just don’t look out for bikes will still get no help from transparent pillars and SMIDSYs will still echo around crash sites.

 
 
 
 
 

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