The total solar eclipse on August 21st is promising to be a life-changing event. For the first time in 99 years, the path of totality will cross the length of the continental US from coast to coast. And what better way to view it than reclining in the leather-draped comfort of your Volvo SUV?
The Swedish automaker manufactured a batch of oversized sun shades that can be clipped on to the 2018 XC60 SUV’s panoramic moonroof using magnets. The shade is ISO-certified 12312-2 material, allowing you watch the eclipse without protective eyewear or going blind. Volvo has distributed them to dealerships in states that are in the eclipse’s path of totality, including Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Missouri, and South Carolina. The viewers are supposed to be free, which is a small comfort given the overwhelming message of this product flies directly in the face of the spirit of the eclipse.
Viewing the solar eclipse should be a beautiful, communal experience. People gathering from all over the country to take part in a once-in-a-century event. “For a brief minute, everybody is doing the same thing at the same time,” Rhonda Coleman, an eclipse chaser from Bend, Oregon, told Vox. “It makes you feel a part of the Earth. It makes you feel a part of the cosmos. It makes you feel a part of every single person you're standing there with. Just for a brief time, we're not separate, we're all the same.”
But Volvo doesn’t want you to be among your fellow citizens, marveling in the magnitude of the cosmos. Rather, it wants to you to stay the hermetically sealed environment of its SUV, maybe listening to an eclipse-themed podcast on their CarPlay-supported infotainment system, responsibly sipping a non-alcoholic beverage. And after about three minutes, when the eclipse is over, all you have to do is casually turn the keys and merge into bumper-to-bumper eclipse traffic, where you will be stuck behind some other jackass in an SUV for eternity.
“Everyone wants to experience it their own way,” a Volvo spokesperson told me, “and a great way is to view it safely and comfortably in our new XC60!” I would argue the best way to view the eclipse safely is to stay as far away from your vehicle, or any vehicle really, as possible. The federal government has dubbed the 2017 eclipse “one of the largest driver distractions in years.” Over 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the eclipse’s path, which means an untold number of eager eclipse chasers will be hitting the roads in anticipation of this rare occurrence.
Most people will have no choice but to drive to view the eclipse. It’s completely understandable, given the US underinvests in public transportation and many people lack a viable alternative. But given the amount of time we already spend in our cars — drivers in the US spend an average of 42 hours a year in traffic during peak hours — maybe we should give ourselves a break for once, climb out of our vehicles, and join each other in basking in the awesomeness of this totally wild and unique event.
It sounds cheesy, I know, and Volvo’s XC60 is fairly comfortable. But the planets are aligning and I wouldn’t want to be stuck watching through an undersized rectangle in the roof of my car. Why think so small?