Cars have faces, much like how you or I or an angler fish does. We all know this, and anyone who disagrees is just trying to make some pedantic, stupid point and I won’t judge you if you bite them, hard, right on the forearm. There are trends that can be inferred by the way car faces look, and a great way to get a general sense of what modern car visages are currently like is to get a bunch of pictures of them, average them all together, and see what you get. And that’s exactly what I did.
While at this year’s Detroit Auto Show just recently, I had our own Mercedes Streeter shoot pictures of the front ends of as many cars and SUVs/Trucks as possible, so I could undertake this experiment. To that end, I got 43 car front end pictures to average together, using the magic of math, and I think the results are pretty fascinating.
Want to see? Of course you do. So here we go:
I did these averages two ways, the mean and the median. The mean face (not to be confused with a mean face, like the kind you can buy for your Jeep if your mother didn’t love you) is what we think of when we think of an average, generally: take everything together, divide it by how many everythings you put together, and the result is the mean. In the case of images, we’re doing that with the pixel color values of the image, and the result is what you see above.
The other method used was the median, which basically looks for what values end up in the middle of the set of data, and this is the result that method of averaging gave me:
Overall, pretty similar results, really. It seems that the average car face for model years 2022 to 2023 is fairly wide and blunt up front, with a high hoodline and a wide grille. There’s a pretty even split between grilles that are, well, pretty evenly split, with some being bisected horizontally by the bumper bar area, and some forming a tall, unbroken area.
Grille textures are quite prominent as well, averaging out to a sort of honeycomb-looking pattern. Central-grille badges are common enough to show up fairly prominently even after all the averaging, too.
Front lighting units are pushed out quite far to the outer corners, and seem to be creeping higher up into the fenders.
The average color is interesting, settling into a sort of dusty pink, with faint yet exiting hints of stripe kits and contrasting-color hood bulges.
I’ve actually been doing this experiment off and on for a few years, so we can see how things have changed over the years:
There’s a lot of interesting things going on here; first, it seems the average of the colors always tends to end up a warm pinkish-peachy-ruddy-something. It also looks like grilles have become less prominent lately, something I attribute to more EVs being in the mix, as those cars tend to de-emphasize their smaller and less-prominent grille areas.
I also think car face homogeneity was peaking around 2017, which is why that year seems to have a more coherent face; more cars simply had similar grille and headlight shapes, where now I think we’re seeing more deviations than before, with more risks being taken and some less conventional design decisions occurring.
I’ll have a follow-up post with SUV and truck faces coming soon, and I expect to see some similar trends; while there are definitely some expected traits – huge grilles, for example – there are a number of prominent, especially EV, vehicles that buck this trend, so the results should be interesting.
You know what the average 2022/2023 car face kinda reminds me of? A Jaguar XK:
Kinda? Is it just me? Anyway, I’m curious to hear your thoughts, as always.
I’d bet the fact that LED headlights are becoming the norm, the designers are really able to vary the shape, and to a lesser extent, the location of them.
Looks like a Mercedes CLA? Or a Macan?
I’d be curious if you increased or decreased the strength of the picture layer based on numbers of the given car sold what the average new car would look like as opposed to every car just getting an equal share at the image.
Maybe it’s just that my 5yo forced me to watch through all three movies and the series, but I can only see Dr. Jumba from Lilo and Stitch.
You know, this is a weird ask, but – there’s a lot of weird nerds on this site, if you share the picture set I bet someone would do some interesting stats or image processing or ml or something with them. Would love to see if we could get an actual “average car for 2022” out of ’em.
I think it’s less Jaguar and more Aston Martin after Ford bought them and stole the grille design. Since then other manufacturers have developed their own take on that iconic shape particularly Kia who also appear to have mixed in a hint of BMW’s kidney pattern.
That Jag looks really worried,lol
They do these things with people too – specifically races.A quick internet search will find it.
I’m just getting over cataract surgery. These pictures were a mean joke.
Rather than (or in addition to) the mean/median versions, have you considered feeding an a neural network with these photos as training data, and seeing what it generates? should give more defined result.
I would be fascinated to view a similar composite of the weighted average of cars currently on the road. It’d likely be heavily influenced by the glut of Corollas, Camrys, and Priuses out there, and small volume exotics would probably not make a blip. I wouldn’t know how to go about compiling the data required for something like that, but it’d be interesting to see the results regardless.
I had that thought too but with color. In the real world the average car color would be dull cement gray (white, black and gray mixed) with nearly all color washed out.
But for this car show, companies have to show some attempt at color to make their car at least partially stand out, thus the dusky pinkness.
The fact that I keep going back and forth in my head on what the mean and median each looks like probably means one of two things:
1) I am overthinking it and each time I look, my brain sees something different, or
2) All cars are starting to look the same and individualism is dead.
I suspect the answer really lies somewhere in the middle.
It reads as a Mercedes to me.
It’s a Scion TC!
Now, if only someone could convince Lexus/Toyota to go with smaller grills, like 2012-ish and older. I love the concept of a Lexus-built vehicle; it’s the execution of front end styling in particular that I abhor.
Another source did something similar years ago and I’d downloaded the results so I could try an experiment using a light table. I wonder if there’s a way to share what I’ve got here…
POSTSCRIPT: The “Omnia Novus” story from that BBC show. Now that we have the 2023 example, maybe we can go back in time and find the 2013, 2003, 1993, 1983, 1973, 1963, and 1933. (No need for 1943, that would be a military vehicle and outside the scope of the inquiry process.)
Looking at the version with the outline, the average face of a 2022 car is… a slightly refreshed 2009 Opel Vectra?
2017 is literally a 2023 BMW M5.
To maybe add a dimension here, it seems that the mode these days could be described as “angry.”
Car front ends sure seem to prize menacing right now…there aren’t as many graceful/athletic looks anymore.
Is it b/c fewer car models each year due to the carpocalypse? Car designers channeling rage at the dying of the sedan? Self-sorting buyers? (e.g. family vehicle shoppers head to crossovers, leaving Vin Diesel fans to mumble why can’t the Charger’s windows be even darker)
Angry…All I can think of is that Chevy commercial in which man bun boy says “it looks aggressive”
I’m seeing a blend of R34 & R35 GT-R. Which isn’t bad, at all.
Space Ghost Face! Actually I’ve seen worse.
I hope you have a grant covering this important long-term research project. If you don’t I suggest some nice canvas prints with your signature on them as a way to raise funds. This looks better than quite a bit of the crap for sale at HomeGoods. Merch the hell out of the Autopian!
I agree, merch the hell out of the Autopian! A while ago there was an article about a card left on a cool car, what ever happened to that?
Hey Torch, have you thought about extracting the edges of each image and averaging those together?
“I’m curious to hear your thoughts, as always.
Umm…I hope this doesn’t mean you can hear my thoughts when I’m not posting them, but I’m afraid of that answer.
As to the car faces, I really like that we have a smaller average grill, even though that result is probably skewed by electric. And I very much do not like the mean Jeep face. Why would someone want a perpetually mad, probably abusive Jeep? Well, except David, but his expresses that via repairs needed, not facial expression.
The only time I ever thought an angry Jeep face looked right was on a 1/16 RC one, its’ straight-cut plastic gears screaming as it tried to climb a curb. An angry little yapping dog of a Jeep.
Jason, I just thought of something. Did you get it? Hmm?
I think the Jeeps with the angry faces look like pugs when they’re grumpy.
Angry Jeep faces are CarLashes for insecure people
Looks like it’s become blurrier over the years, which means more variation? So that’s good, I guess?
Oh. It’s supposed to look all blurry. I thought I needed to change my contact lens out.
Lens, singular? Leela, is that you?