Detroit, Michigan — General Motors may have found a clear path forward in addressing pedestrian safety around SUVs, as the automaker has been granted a patent for a see-through A-pillar to potentially be used on GM’s larger vehicles.
The idea is a fibre-reinforced composite A-pillar that includes one or more openings filled with a transparent resin or composite that is “designed to maximize the occupant’s field of view, especially on left-hand turns, within structural constraints,” according to GM’s patent application.
Resistance wires would be embedded in the transparent resin or composite, to keep the material at the optimal temperature for transparency, and to melt snow or ice.
“Assembly cost can be further reduced by embedding electrical wiring in the vehicle frame, easing electrical integration,” reads the patent.
The company notes that while current vehicle framing adequately accommodates drivers of different statures, “they still do not provide a user with adequate visibility to the blind spots hidden by typical vehicle framing, such as the driver’s A-pillar. The inability to locate objects that would otherwise be seen, except for the blind spot caused, for example, by the A-pillar structure, can create potential safety concerns for the driver, other drivers, and pedestrians.”
Part of the hurdle put before GM was to find a way to increase blindspot visibility for drivers “without sacrificing the structural performance of the vehicle frame and negatively impacting passenger safety,” as would happen if the A-pillar was slimmed down in width.
A June 2020 study from the IIHS found that SUVs, pickups, vans and minivans are substantially more likely than cars to hit pedestrians when making turns. Additionally, the IIHS recommended in a report from earlier in March that “automakers should consider ways to design the A-pillars of these vehicles to minimize blind zones while maintaining pillar strength. Doing this could improve pedestrian safety around these increasingly popular larger vehicles.”