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  • Lance Eliot

Top Ten Reasons Tesla’s Cybertruck Windows Shattered Despite Being ‘Unbreakable’

Some refer to the incident as windowgate.

Jokes and memes a plenty have arisen, and the media headlines touted that expectations were shattered, along with records being smashed.

Of course, I’m referring to the big unveiling last week of Tesla’s new Cybertruck, a pickup truck that’s an EV (Electrical Vehicle) and made with all sorts of armored plating and bulletproof windows (well, maybe; more about that in a moment).

With rather prominent acute angles and an overall trapezoidal shape, this sci-fi looking vehicle generated both great praise and condemnation.

Comparisons of the truck’s unusual look were immediately tweeted with examples from Star Wars to children’s cartoons. Some asserted that this design is exactly what the world needs, while others expressed qualms that it portends for more car accidents due to potentially poor visibility and the chances of driving it like an imposing military tank.

The Moment Of True Surprise

Besides the bright lights and splashy manner of doing the reveal, there was an OMG (Oh My Gosh) moment that got perhaps as much media coverage as did the fact that this is Musk’s latest creation to be brought to our attention.

I’ll walk you through what happened (though many of you have likely seen the video of the incident, which became the darling of online videos for about a day or two).

As part of the showcase about the armored aspects, a sledgehammer was used to whack at the driver’s side door, seemingly bouncing off the outer skin of the Cybertruck and impacting with little or no visible damage.

It was one of those moments that anyone showcasing a new product is eager to do, vividly illustrating what has been said verbally during the unveiling and offering seemingly irrefutable proof of the pledge made about the product.

The next step was potentially a bridge too far.

Musk implored his key designer of the Cybertruck to throw a small steel ball at the driver’s side window, presumably demonstrating the bulletproof nature of the glass.

Curiously, the designer seemed to somewhat question the directive, asking “Sure?” in a subtle way, and yet upon Musk’s added urging the deed was undertaken.

I mention that this hesitation seems curious since the tossing act was most likely tried beforehand and therefore, they would have known that the outcome was going to be good, i.e., no broken glass. Why hesitate if you know for sure that it will go well and provide the visual evidence to support the touted claims?

Now, that being said, sometimes, as part of a demo, you might feign concern, raising up the ante and getting the audience on the edge of their seats. I don’t think that’s what was going on, and it seemed like a genuine form of hesitation, as though the designer might have suspected that somehow the toss could cause a problem.

Akin to the question of whether there was another shooter on the grassy knoll, you can readily study the videotapes of the Cybertruck demo, closely examining each frame, if you think it might help to figure out the unvarnished truth.

In any case, upon tossing the steel ball at the window, the ball dramatically smacked and cracked the glass, leaving the kind of fracture that you’d maybe see after a bullet hits and shatters a plate of glass.


Not at all what one might expect from a repeatedly pumped-up declaration that the windows were fully and completely bulletproof. This is not the kind of result that builds confidence in the words spoken about a new product.

There was a sense of collective shock by the audience and Musk himself was heard to utter “Oh my f———- God,” an expression seemingly exhibiting surprise and dismay.

Anyone that has ever had a demo go awry will know exactly what Musk must have been feeling at that moment. The range of emotions is from being crestfallen to abject disappointment, often followed by being irked and upset that this could have happened at the worst of times (during a grand reveal).

Many an executive has shifted into a heads-will-roll mode the instant they come off the stage when calamities occur during a highly visible demo.

On the stage, there was no place to hide and no means to pretend that the glass hadn’t shattered. The audience attending saw it happen, as did a large global audience that was watching via live streaming.

What would you do?

Since there’s no means to undo the shattering, you might as well double down and try tossing the ball at the passenger’s window. Your hope upon hopes is that the second toss won’t result in a smashed window.

You could then try to make the first window shattering seem to be a fluke. And, you could point to the second window as evidence that the glass is unbreakable. Plus, you might (desperately) try a Yoda-like mind trick of getting the audience to focus on the unbroken window and forget that they can also see the smashed one too.

Musk opted to have the design lead proceed to do the second toss.

Yikes, the glass broke on the passenger’s window too.

Two strikes, and in this case, you are out.

When a demo has troubles, you usually try to talk your way around the matter. There’s not much else you can do.

It would have made no sense to have the Cybertruck driven off the stage to get it out of view. The Cybertruck was sitting there, in all its glory, showing off the design and armor, along with having two shattered windows.

Musk tried to overcome the embarrassing snafu by pointing out that the steel ball at least had not gone into the interior of the vehicle and thus had not fully penetrated the window.

Also, he assured the audience that the Tesla team had tested the windows many times, including tossing everything at it in a proverbial “kitchen sink” exhaustive method of testing. Furthermore, just a few minutes earlier they had dropped steel balls onto window plates, right there on the stage, and it sure seemed to showcase the sturdiness of the glass (no breakage apparent).

Any prominent demo that has something go awry of that magnitude is likely to get attention, especially when there was so much other showmanship being employed.

Those that have had their lives filled with doing demos know that you often lay up late at night the evening before a new product launch. You pray that every conceivable aspect has been tied down. There is usually a huge preparation effort beforehand and the prior practice gives you faith that things will hopefully go well.

Yet, despite all such preparations, there is always the chance of a demo glitch.

If there is going to be a glitch, you have in the back of your mind that maybe it will happen on something inconsequential.

Or, when the hitch occurs, you think about ways to quickly move ahead in the demo and act as though nothing untoward occurred. Luck might be with you that the audience won’t notice the glitch or that they might assume it was part of the demo effort and not a gotcha moment.

For the Tesla Cybertruck, the broken glass became as much of the top story about the unveiling as did the pickup truck itself.

The incident will go down in the history of car demos, adding to prior well-known glitches that have happened during a new vehicle unveiling.

Stuff happens, as they say.

To date, there is not a definitive answer as to why the windows shattered.

It is an unsolved mystery.

Let’s see if we can come up with potential reasons to explain the snafu.

The Top Ten Reasons

We could postulate a myriad of reasons that the glass shattered.

I’ve boiled them down into the Top 10.

Here they are:

1. Was Done On Purpose

Some have speculated that the shattered glass was a purposeful outcome, done as a public relations stunt. In short, Tesla and Musk intentionally planned to have the glass break.

It does seem to be the case that the smashed glass generated gobs more publicity than the unveiling alone might have otherwise garnered.

Nonetheless, I’m going to reject this reason based on the aspect that Musk and his designer seemed genuinely surprised (if it was an acting job, they both deserve an Oscar), and it seems doubtful that undermining your own words about the bulletproof elements would be worth the added newsworthiness.

2. Hindsight Revisionist Theory

You might recall the infamous case about how New Coke was brought out by the Coca-Cola company, doing so to great fanfare, and then got trounced that the New Coke was vastly inferior to the original Coke. After months of getting dinged, the original Coke was reinstated and the New Coke was essentially retired.

Some say that the Coke matter was a gigantic snafu, while others point out that Coke regained prominence and was able to leverage the incident to gain against competitors. As such, some suggest via a kind of historical hindsight revisionist viewpoint, it was all a clever ploy.

Well, even if via hindsight the shattered glass was a smart accidental move, this still doesn’t quite explain how it occurred.

Who planned it and who was in on the ruse?

Maybe Musk and the designer were kept out-of-the-loop and didn’t know that the glass was going to break.

Or, maybe the designer knew about it (recall his “Sure?” comment), and he had cold feet at the moment of truth.

I’m going to reject these conspiracy type notions and suggest that it seems hard to imagine that the Tesla team would be willing to keep Musk in the dark about an intentional plan to have the glass break.

Musk is the kind of hands-on leader that would seem unlikely to take kindly to behind-his-back machinations of this enormity.

3. Glass Was Treated Backstage

One explanation for the glass breaking is that while the Cybertruck was backstage, awaiting being brought out, someone on the Tesla team decided to treat the glass or coat it with a special substance.

Perhaps the treatment was intended to make the glass look shiny.

You can certainly understand that someone could have opted to do so, hoping it would further enhance the ball throwing act that was planned for the on-stage performance. And, it might have been one of those last moment unplanned actions, for which the person doing it would have assumed that nothing bad could come from the coating.

Then, when the steel ball was tossed, somehow the coating or treatment made the glass more vulnerable and so it shattered.

If that’s the case, what kind of coating or treatment could cause bulletproof glass to lose its strength to the degree that it would transmute from being virtually unbreakable to instead being readily smashed?

That’s impressive chemistry.

Not ruling out this reason, but it seems like quite a stretch.

4. Prior Test Weakened The Glass

Sometimes, when you are getting ready to do a demo, you perform the demo, end-to-end, and do so just minutes before going on-stage.

The idea is that by performing the demo within moments of doing it again, on-stage, you are going to be reassured that everything is ready to go. This is worthy to consider. If a practice run-thru of the demo had taken place say a day before, you never know what changes might have happened in the interim, and therefore it makes sense to do one final demo at the last minute.

On the other hand, there are demos that often alter the product that is going to be demonstrated. For example, a classic bad move is when you run software that you are going to demo, and enter various fake values, which when you do the stage demo it now has those fake values already entered. Many software demos have been undermined by a last-minute run thru.

One possibility is that the Cybertruck was tested before the on-stage effort, perhaps having someone toss steel balls at the windows. The windows didn’t shatter and so it was assumed they were working as anticipated. Meanwhile, hairline fractures occurred.

Thus, when the on-stage toss occurred, the glass was already in a weakened state.

Whoever decided to do the pre-test might not have realized that the pre-test itself could undermine the integrity of the glass. Though, you would think that during the initial testing process of the glass that they would have already discovered the aspect that such hairline fractures could arise and weaken the glass.

Maybe the person doing the last-minute test didn’t know what other members of the test team knew.

This reason seems to have some legs to it.

5. Glass Weakened By Blow To The Car Door

A clever physics answer would be that the sledgehammer blow to the driver’s door was enough to have led to a weakening of the glass window of the driver’s door.

This seems plausible, though it does raise the question about the second window.

Why would the second window also be weakened?

Did a blow to the door somehow reverberate through the body of the car and cause two or more of the glass windows to become fractured?

Did the driver’s side window becomes weakened by the blow, and somehow it then led to the second window becoming weaker?

Maybe, if one window that’s adjacent to another window is smashed, it no longer can aid the adjacent window in not becoming smashed?

Again, it’s one of those grassy knolls set of questions.

Let’s keep this reason on the list but mark it as less likely.

6. Not The Right Glass

Perhaps someone put the wrong glass into the Cybertruck that was being used for the demo.

During the various testing of the Cybertruck prototypes, it is possible they were using bulletproof glass from vendor X and had other glass laying around from vendor Y. The vendor Y glass wasn’t as strong as the glass of vendor X.

In an unfortunate mix-up, the Tesla team inadvertently put the glass Y into the Cybertruck that was destined to go on-stage.

From all appearances, suppose you couldn’t readily discern any visual difference between the X and Y glass. It could be an easy mistake to have put the Y glass into the windows and not realized that you should have used X glass.

Though this is a tempting reason for the shattering of the windows, it would require that they had the wrong glass in-hand and put it into the windows of the demo Cybertruck, which is possible and yet somehow at the same time not fully plausible.

We’ll keep it on the list.

7. The Toss Or Steel Ball Were Different

Tesla released a video of a toss by the head designer that occurred during the initial testing of the Cybertruck windows.

In the released video, the glass does not break.

Some have tried to analyze the tossing action.

It seems that per such analyses, the angle and thrusting force of the initial test are not the same as what occurred on-stage during the demo. As such, maybe the designer happened to inadvertently toss the steel balls in a different manner, doing so in a means on-stage that caused the glass to shatter.

We also don’t know that the steel balls shown in the initial test video are the same as the steel balls used during the on-stage demo.

Furthermore, the initial test video shows various clamps and other contraptions on or nearby the glass window, perhaps steadying the glass or otherwise aiding the glass in being less likely to break.

The nature of toss and possibly in conjunction with different kinds of steel balls led to a grand convergence that made the glass smash during the live demo, some postulate.

Suspicious minds also have said that maybe Tesla is hiding other testing videos that show the glass breaking, and only released the one video of it not breaking (doing so to save face). This would be a fiendish way, they would argue, of convincing us that the glass really is unbreakable, when the truth is that Tesla possesses dozens of videos showing the glass breaking during testing (which, they probably do, since logically during testing often things break).

Setting aside the conspiracy theories, it seems hard to imagine that the tossing action would have been so different that it would suddenly break the glass.

Yes, I realize that the angle of the toss and how the ball struck the glass could make a difference, but somehow this does not seem a very satisfying answer.

8. Windows Improperly Placed

Suppose the glass windows of the on-stage Cybertruck were slightly askew.

Perchance someone inadvertently failed to roll the windows up entirely. A small and unnoticeable gap between the window and the door frame existed. Perhaps the bulletproof glass is only unbreakable as long as it is held in a steady state.

Another similar idea is that the glass windows were improperly fitted into the demo Cybertruck.

If they had not ever used the demo Cybertruck before, it could have been one that got some new windows put into it, and regrettably, the windows were not fitted appropriately.

Or, the Cybertruck had been used before, and when they put the “final” windows into it, the ones that would be used for the demo, darned if they messed-up fitting them into the frame.

9. Other-Worldly Explanation

This is a quick theory to recite.

Maybe there’s some other-worldly explanation, as though some unseen hand opted to shatter the glass or weakened the glass so it would shatter.

Exorcism needed?

10. Murphy’s Law

It seems almost undeniable that Murphy’s Law of demos has once again reared its ugly head.

Whatever can go wrong during a demo, will go wrong.

Enough said.


There are your Top 10 reasons for the windowgate matter.

More reasons do exist, such as a juicy one that a competitor replaced the windows while the Tesla team wasn’t looking. This kind of shenanigans occurs at college campuses during cross-town rivalry weeks, but it is hard to fathom that another automaker snuck into Tesla and managed to change the windows on the demo Cybertruck.

All in all, I guess I’ll go with Murphy’s Law, ever-present in all demos.

Courtesy : Forbes


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