There's a whole lot of hoopla coming out of Detroit this week with some 500 new cars and truck models debuting at the North American International Auto Show. But what is the one feature yet to dawn on the automotive industry that would be an overnight and surefire commercial success, causing millions of baby boomers to rush out and line up for a vehicle with this feature?
Prescription windshields, of course!
Prescription windshields could end those "I don't drive at night" blues once and for all. And while none of those new car or truck models yet sport a prescription windshield, that doesn't mean the idea is beyond consideration by the great auto design minds of the world, most of whom I suspect are 25 years old and have 20/20 vision.
Who needs a mobile infotainment center when you don't want to be in the car in the first place? Smartphone apps that serve as your ignition key are certainly nifty, but can you imagine a car windshield you can actually see out of, one that filters out the glare of on-coming headlights so you aren't momentarily blinded, one that takes the "I don't" out of driving at night?
People, come on, this is brilliance here!
Windshields, as anyone who has ever kicked up a rock on the road and cracked theirs knows, are easy enough to replace when necessary, so even if your vision prescription changed, replacing your front glass isn't an insurmountable problem. Besides, we probably change our cars more often than we get our eyes checked anyway.
Expensive? Only if the auto industry requires that it be. Remember, it's not the lenses but the frames on your glasses that drive up the cost. You pay for design; glass is glass. And besides, since when was cost a consideration in a midlife crisis? A 55-year-old guy who is buying a Corvette would rejoice at the chance to spend an extra few grand if it meant leaving his bifocals at home.
Personally, I can only imagine the freedom of not being half-blind when the sun sets, of agreeing without hesitation to meet friends for dinner in town after work without worrying about the ride home after dark.
And I know I'm not alone. My eyes began their retirement from active duty around my 50th birthday. Now, I have glasses perched on my nose all day long for reading on the computer and a different pair for distance driving. Throw in dark roads and the truth is, I turn down more invitations than I accept.
The percentage of people age 55 and older who need reading glasses, my optometrist tells me, is 100 percent. The percentage of people who become less comfortable with their night vision around that age corner is also 100 percent, give or take a few stubborn old goats who won't admit that they don't see street signs until they are just upon them -- explaining the sharp veering and late crossing of lanes to make turns.
While the auto industry of 2012 may be dragging its tires when it comes to catering to the vision needs of the Post 50 population, it did have a few bells and whistles to throw our way.
Marc Harlow, spokesman for the show, notes that several new models have "lane assists" -- the car beeps at you when you drift into the next lane. In the Ford Fusion, the steering wheel vibrates its reprimand. Heck, I probably deserve it more often than not. The Fusion goes so far as to correct your drifting mistake by applying pressure on the steering wheel to bring your car back. No napping at the wheel in that pup.
Several models, Harlow says, also have adaptive cruise control features -- a front-facing radar that tells you when you are too close to the car in front of you. Your car will automatically slow down and allow you to travel at a safe distance from the car in front.
In addition, some models introduced this year have an active parking assist, a sensored feature that literally allows the car to parallel park itself without your interference, said Harlow. That one I can get behind.
Moreover, while I may still be groping around in the dark and unable to see the road, Detroit is prepared to equip my smartphone with an extremely intelligent car key. This souped up phone key will not only open my car door remotely and start my engine, it also will know what my radio pre-sets are, which stations carry my favorite music when I travel, and hopefully place a call to my husband when I drive off the road because I couldn't find my driving glasses.
Come on Detroit; don't make us beg. Or appeal to Japan.