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Q+A: Reducing glare, making driving safer

In the course New Product Development & Marketing, students in the M.S. in Engineering Management program not only learn about the cycle of product evolution – they have the opportunity to develop their own product, create a business plan, and pitch their idea at the end of the semester. Last semester, one team of students developed SafeSight, an application that integrates into a car windshield to minimize and reduce dangerous glare.

Team members:
Muhammad Fareed, Quality Assurance Engineer II, Raytheon, MSEM ‘19
Brian Hickey, Systems Engineer, Raytheon, MSEM ‘19
Matt Jamula, Senior Technical Staff, Draper Laboratory, MSEM ‘19
Carolyn Stockdale, Global IT Strategy and Management Consultant, MSEM ‘19

Tufts Gordon Institute spoke to team member Matt Jamula about the experience and lessons learned.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for SafeSight?

A: I drive a lot – I commute every day into the city. There were a few times going home this semester where I just couldn’t see out of the front of my windshield because of glare. So that’s where our team got the idea. We aimed to find out: Is there a better way to block the sun, other than a traditional visor, or sunglasses, or other windshield treatments? I knew of a new optical material – privacy glass, typically used in conference rooms and offices – that would be a good fit.

Q: What does the product look like and how does it work?

A: Windshields are made up of a bunch of layers of glass on top of each other. The problem is that when sun comes in, light scatters across all of those layers, creating glare. This product would be a single layer in your sandwich of layers and by default, it wouldn’t look any different than a normal windshield.

In its natural state, our product is clear and transparent. There would be a couple of small cameras to detect bright light coming in, whether it’s sun or headlights, and it would detect which region of the windshield is being affected, based on the driver’s height.

The glass would be constantly readjusting. Instead of the whole glass becoming opaque like the privacy glass, our product would break down the windshield into a very fine grid of the material so that it could specifically locate which areas of the windshield need to be changed.

Q: How did you decide on your target customer, and which market to target?

A: We really wanted to have the end user in mind when making the design, to make it seamless and easy for them to integrate into the car. But at the end of the day, you really have to work with the auto manufacturers to get the product into cars, so that is who we decided was our target customer. It would be part of a features package on a car – the same way you might have a sports package or an outdoors package. This would be a safety feature that comes with the car. We were targeting the luxury class and Mercedes, specifically the S-Class, to have a starting platform.

Q: How does your product compare to others on the market?

A: There’s nothing really like our product. Existing solutions to reduce glare typically put a film or anti-glare coating on the windshield, so the whole windshield reduces it. But it doesn’t eliminate the problem.

Q: What skills and lessons from the MSEM curriculum were you able to use when developing the product?

A: We used a lot of the team-building skills – we were an excellent team, but also had some challenges along the way when we had to make a group decision or manage our personalities. The background in finance helped us a lot with the business model aspect of the project, as well as the background in product development.

Q: What were some of your main takeaways from the project?

A: I realized that being actively involved in decision making, marketing, finance, and creative brainstorming, and not only the technical development, lead us to have a better product overall. Having this focus on the end user and customer was extremely valuable. Often in technology, solutions are brought about from the beginning technology then pushed out to the market. In this case, we did the opposite – we started with the problem out there, then developed technology to address that problem.