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Why is In-Car Visibility Shrinking?

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I am lucky. I get to drive around what I think is an excellent car: the Chevy Volt. However, as much as I love the car (and I really do love it), I do have one big problem with it during everyday driving: It has a big butt.

Rear in-car visibility in the Volt isn’t great, unless you want to look at the sky. My blind zone checks are a little less head turns and a little more Pilates workout. However, it isn’t alone — a lot of modern vehicles are harder to see out of than before. Answering just why cars seem to have less and less visibility these days, though, is a little tricky.

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Mostly, it’s because there doesn’t seem to be a single cause. The largest reason people point to for shrinking windows and ballooning pillars is safety regulations, and there is some merit to this. Modern cars have to protect the passengers if the car should flip over, and that means some chunky steel rising through each of the roof pillars.

But that’s not all that is contributing; vehicle design fashion takes a lot of the finger pointing as well. Matthew de Paula, an accomplished automotive journalist writing in Forbes, pointed out two big design trends that are absorbing visibility: rising belt lines and sloping roofs. The swooping roof lines, in particular, make cars look sportier and sleeker, but squeeze the windows down. Meanwhile, higher belt lines that allow larger, wider tires push windows up from the bottom. These design trends aren’t just for looks, though. Their real-world benefit is better aerodynamics, giving vehicles greater efficiency.

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At least the good news is that as visibility shrinks, automakers are adding systems to help like blind-spot warnings and rear-view cameras.

News Sources: Forbes, Consumer ReportsAARP, Edmunds