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How Does Advancing Windshield Technology and Lighter Glass Impact You?

By Jenna Reed


Windshields are getting thinner and lighter even as more technology is prevalent in vehicles. What does advancing windshield technology mean for you?

Car manufacturer Ford and Pittsburgh Glass Work (PGW), a manufacturer of automotive glass, teamed up in the U.S. to introduce a Ford GT that features a Corning Gorilla Glass® hybrid windshield.

“The new Gorilla Glass hybrid window laminate is approximately 25 to 50 percent thinner, and has equal to, or greater strength than traditional laminate,” according to statement released by Ford. “Traditional laminate glass ranges from 4 to 6 mm in thickness, where the Gorilla Glass hybrid window ranges from 3 mm to 4 mm.”

Ford says it tested the new glass by driving it over stone and in rough road conditions. It also had to endure specific projectile, rollover and wind-tunnel testing.

On a more global scale, Corning, well known for its Gorilla Glass used in smartphones, and Saint-Gobain Sekurit, a manufacturer of auto glass, are in talks to determine whether mass production of Corning’s Gorilla Glass would be a good investment for the auto industry. The glass is much stronger than conventional automotive glass. However, it’s more expensive to manufacture.

Saint-Gobain Sekurit says it is still up in the air as to whether or not the glass can be mass-produced.

Chemically-strengthened glass, a mere half-millimeter in thickness, reduces the weight of a car windshield by as much as a third, all without sacrificing toughness, according to Corning. Swapping traditional soda-lime glass for today’s lighter weight glass alternatives in windshields, side windows and sunroofs can trim up to about 45 pounds from the overall weight of an average vehicle.

That weight reduction alone means better fuel economy and significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. Those advantages are gaining the attention of car makers, says Paolo Cavallari, PGW senior vice president and general manager for Auto-OEM.

Apparently, there is a trade-off though. According to Cavallari, thinner glass can mean more road noise.

tesla-model-x-panoramic-windshield
Tesla Model X Panoramic Windshield

More Glass in Vehicles

Other trends include larger windshields and panoramic roofs, due in part to the availability of lighter, tougher glass. Both Gerry Parij, international marketing manager for Saint-Gobain Sekurit, and Carvallari note a growing trend of increased glass surface areas.

“We do see a trend in an increase in the size and shape of windshields, up to the top and over the driver’s head,” Cavallari says.

Take Tesla’s current model lineup, for example.

Windshield sizes have been growing toward a full glass canopy, Parij says, noting that in some cases, the area of the glass is more than 2 ½ square meters from front to back. And with the increase in surface area comes a host of considerations.

An increased need for solar efficiency, Parij says, means the glass will have to be darker and have more solar countermeasures for passenger comfort and UV protection. Some may even feature energy saving solar panels.

Looking ahead, Parij predicts: “There will be no cameras. No rearview mirror. No sensors. All those sensors will be embedded into the glass.”

Antennas, for example, have all but disappeared from vehicles.

The Sungate® antenna windshield provided by PGW reflects solar energy but receives broadcast radio waves, according to Cavallari. The vehicle body serves as the electrical ground plane.

Another practical use of the windshield surface being developed by PGW is the heated windshield.

“It’s an electronically powered coating over entire surface of the glass to provide uniform heating,” Cavallari says.

BMW is working on an energy efficient version of this also.

Cavallari sees vehicle designs changing to meet the needs of passengers as opposed to drivers because of the rise of autonomous vehicles.

“I think we’ll see more sophistication in the design being driven by car makers focused on autonomous driving,” he says. “There will be new needs, so those passengers will determine how the car design will go, how the car will be used.”

General Motors Staff Researcher Dr. Jeremy Salinger road tests a Cadillac semi-autonomous driving technology. (Photo by John F. Martin for Cadillac.)

Autonomous Driving

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about autonomous driving in the news. Collision warning systems, automatic braking, lane alert programs, heads-up-displays, and all the cameras and radar these features these entail, are here to stay. These are the pre-cursers to autonomous driving.

Windshields are involved in much of the new technology from rain sensors to lane-changing systems, high and low beans, says Don Michelotti, executive vice president of Carlex, a fabricator of auto glass.

The benefit of these systems is that they saves lives, says Bill George, director of marketing at NSG Pilkington, a manufacturer of auto glass. He cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data that says car-to-car communications could prevent more than half a million crashes each year.

The Cadillac 2017 model features Super Cruise, through which technology takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 70 miles per hour, he notes.

Some automakers, such have Tesla, have taken this technology a step further. In 2015, the automaker rolled out its “AutoPilot,” a semi-autonomous technology, to Model S owners.

However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, stresses that even with this technology, drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel, according to www.digitaltrends.com.

In the future, this could change.

The closer vehicles come to being autonomous, the more technology they will need, especially near and the windshield.

So What Does This Mean for Replacements?

As technology advances, you will likely find yourself with a hybrid Corning Gorilla Glass windshield and/or advanced driver assistance systems. When your windshield needs to be replaced, ensure you find an auto glass technician who is knowledgeable about the latest technology to do the job. They can make sure you receive the proper windshield and that all sensors are properly calibrated after a replacement.

To find a technician near you, visit www.glass.com.

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