Automotive Smart Glass: Rethinking the Driving Experience
December 5, 2012

by Casey Neeley, cneeley@glass.com

As the saying goes, the future is now. Technology once limited to an episode of "The Jetsons" or space-age science fiction movies is slowly becoming a part of the automotive industry. Windshields that are self-healing, -tinting, -heating and -cleaning are entering the market. But what exactly will this mean for auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR)?

One thing is certain; auto glass nanotechnology is only going to get bigger. In a report issued earlier this week by NanoMarkets, revenues from smart glass and related coatings sold in the automotive sector are projected to reach $3.5 billion by 2018. Much of the report's analysis stems from the current sales of dimmable mirrors, which the report claims at the moment is the only automotive application using large amounts of smart glass. These smart glass sales net more than $450 million annually. As the perceived focus for automotive smart glass suppliers, the report anticipates $1.3 billion in windshield-based smart glass products by 2018. Some of these expected innovations include wiperless windshields, smart solar windshields and a self-repairing windshield.

So what exactly will the future of driving look like? Standard Digital refers to the driving experience as "augmented reality (AR)."

"AR is usually considered to be a live view of the real world, onto which extra data—usually pulled from the internet—is layered or superimposed. It is similar to the view of the world that Arnold Schwarzenegger had in the Terminator movies," reads the Standard Digital article.

One of the most notable examples of this type of AR vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz DICE (Dynamic and Intuitive Control Experience) concept car which allows users to control a virtual dashboard on their windshields.

"Capable of recognizing and using a driver's hand movements to create a custom virtual dashboard—complete with live feed from their social network—the Mercedes-Benz DICE concept represents our commitment to the kind of innovation that answers and even anticipates drivers' needs," says Mercedes on its website.

Earlier this year, Mercedes also introduced its "Sky Magic Control" self-tinting glass, which employs electrochromic technology, for sunroofs and other auto glass applications.

In 2008, Italian car designer Leonardo Fioravanti introduced a prototype for a self-cleaning windshield that doesn't need wipers. If windshields no longer need wipers, what will happen to wiper manufacturing?

The implications of these various technologies hold significant impact for the industries associated with the innovations. In an industry that focuses on glass repair and replacement, the effects of self-repairing glass could be substantial. Additionally, the installation of nanotechnology within the windshields breeds a new series of questions about how this technology will affect installation techniques and installer training.

Just how will these innovations affect AGRR? Email Casey Neeley at cneeley@glass.com and share your thoughts on how smart glass will impact the industry.

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/glassBYTEs.com™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
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