Today's laminated, or glazed, windshields consist of a protective layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) inserted between two layers of solid glass. This optically clear “sandwich” prevents cracks and protects drivers from external impacts.

But what if the vehicle doesn’t have a driver anymore? Will glazing still be an important automotive design concern when cars go autonomous?

In a Tech Briefs Webinar titled Automotive Glazing: Past, Present, and Future, a reader had the following question for Tom Niziolek, an industry expert from the Spotswood, NJ-based materials manufacturer SWM International:

"What do you think about glazing in autonomous vehicles where there is no driver, so requirements regarding clarity, distortion, and scratch resistance may not apply?"

Read Niziolek's edited response below.

Tom Niziolek, Commercial Director, Optical and Graphics, SWM International: If you have all these advanced systems, my answer would be: "Why go backwards?"

In the case of autonomous cars, we don't have a vehicle operator. But the clarity and distortion requirements let natural light in not only for the vehicle operator, but passengers too.

Even if you have a driverless vehicle, why would you let up on this requirement? Those requirements will still be there because you’ll have passengers in the vehicle. Passengers still want a great view, with high clarity and no distortion. If passengers are inside a driverless vehicle, they still might need some abrasion resistance for protection inside the vehicle, and maybe externally too if you think about debris in the outside environment. I would think there would be no going backwards if all these systems and materials are answering the challenges today.

What do you think? Do you agree? Share your comments and questions below.