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Corning Wants to Revolutionize How You Drive

By Steve Symington - Jan 17, 2017 at 7:56PM

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Showcasing its own fully operational, glass-enabled electric vehicle, the glass technologist has lofty automotive ambitions.

Corning's (GLW -1.20%) cutting-edge glass technology can already be found everywhere from smartphones to LCD TVs, advanced optics systems, lab science equipment, and even the ceramic substrates and particulate filters underlying pollution control systems in millions of vehicles today. But Corning is ready to take its show on the road in a much more visible way.

At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Corning unveiled its ambitious vision for the "ultimate driving experience." To demonstrate that experience, Corning even built its own fully operational electric vehicle prototype showcasing how its most advanced glass technologies can be used in the automotive space.

Corning's fully operational electric vehicle prototype features an array of its glass technologies. Image source: Corning.

"Cleaner, safer, more enhanced automotive solutions"

First, the sleek electric vehicle features a Gorilla Glass hybrid windshield that's not only two times more durable than conventional soda lime glass (resulting in 50% fewer windshield cracks and replacements) but also offers substantial weight reduction for increased fuel efficiency, and a threefold increase in optical clarity.

As a happy consequence of the latter, the Gorilla Glass windshield also offers a three-times-larger viewing area for a next-gen heads-up display and augmented reality capabilities, offering real-time updates on traffic and landmarks in the driver's line of sight. In addition, the car features slim Gorilla Glass in its side windows, back windows, and sunroof, each offering user-controlled tint capabilities and substantial weight reduction for increased fuel efficiency. Corning also incorporated its Fibrance Light-Diffusing Fiber technology, indicating electrical charge levels in the headlights and proximity alerts around the rear lights.  

Image source: Corning

If that weren't enough, Corning's vehicle showcased a beautiful, seamless Gorilla Glass-covered dashboard with touch and 4K video capabilities, a curved center console that seemed to float in midair with multiple smart sensors embedded into the glass surface (including an wireless charging station and temperature sensors), interior door lighting panels covered with Gorilla Glass, and a steering wheel display with a fingerprint-ID ignition.

Putting it all together

But these technologies aren't exactly new. In fact, Corning's light-diffusing fiber and dynamic window tinting products piqued my interest and spurred an article lauding their potential almost exactly two years ago. But it's especially exciting to see Corning's bigger-picture mentality begin to unfold as it brings these once disparate glass technologies together, much less in an exceedingly impressive, fully functional electric vehicle. 

It's also evident Corning is going out of its way to demonstrate the economic feasibility of these concepts to manufacturers. The curved dash, for example, was built using cost-effective cold-form processes, as the ultra-thin Gorilla Glass can easily bend to the console design and negate the need for hot molding.

Kevin Morgan, Gorilla Glass for Automotive market development and strategy leader, explained:

People really liked the idea of the cold-form process. You can get a 3D shape at a 2D cost -- and because it's manufactured flat, it's easier to ship, easier to cut, and easier to decorate. The conversations around the console were great lead-ins to discussions about other multi-dimensional shape possibilities in car interiors.

It helps that Gorilla Glass is exceedingly durable, is compatible with touch sensitivity, and offers superior clarity -- all reasons it rose to prominence as the cover glass of choice for the industry's leading smartphones and tablets over the years.

To be fair, however, the automotive glass market opportunity is still in its infancy for Corning. But if Corning's stunning demonstration at CES is any indication, something tells me it won't stay that way for long.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Corning. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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