Innovations, such as laminated glazing, already have a critical role to play in improving car passenger safety and laminated side-glazings and the security benefits have also attracted the attention of the insurance industry.
Although the take-up of new 5 star security ratings in the UK has been slower than anticipated (only vehicles with laminated side-glazings as standard wil achieve the top 5 star insurance rating), top of the range models such as the Lexus 430, Audi A8 and VW Phaeton include laminated side-glazing as standard.
Not only does laminated glazing prevent passengers from being ejected through the side windows in an accident, but it also provides a tough barrier to penetration by intruders trying to attack occupants or steal from the vehicle.
Pilkington expects the combination of new safety demands and lower insurance costs to have a positive impact, with increasing numbers of models achieving the top security rating.
Another issue likely to influence the design and styling of cars is the proposed introduction of a new pedestrian safety directive in Europe in 2005.
The directive, which focuses on the safer design of the front ends of cars, is based on 22 years of research and is due to come into force in 2005.
The effects are likely to be seen in new glazing designs, with larger windshields and narrower side columns to increase visibility. Vehicle manufacturers are already working with component suppliers on reshaping the front of cars to reduce the number of fatalities.