Professor invents blind spot-free mirror

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Side mirror

A Drexel University professor has invented a blind spot-free car mirror. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A math professor from Drexel University has come up with a solution to a common problem in motoring that is typically dealt with in high-tech ways. Dr. Andrew Hicks has developed a mirror that is essentially blind-spot free.

Disco inferno

Dr. Andrew Hicks, a mathematics professor at Drexel University, has come up with a better design for side mirrors for cars, according to Inside Line. The mirror gives the driver a wider field of view, essentially eliminating blind spots. He began developing the mirror in 2008, using an advanced algorithm, a set of procedures used to make precise calculations, to determine the optimal design for his mirror.

The typical driver side mirror, according to R and D magazine, is flat, with a field of view between 15 and 17 degrees. Hick’s mirror is slightly curved, with 45 degrees of visibility. Hicks’ mirror, according to R and D, uses a non-uniform curve to precisely control how light bounces off of it, producing an image with minimal distortion, which is why “objects may be closer than they appear” in car mirrors.

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The manner of reflection, according to Inside Line, is similar to how a disco ball reflects light.

Not likely to appear in production cars

Dr. Hicks’ specialty is in mirrors, as he had used a similar mirror during his post-graduate research. He further refined the idea after a colleague asked him to help design a better side mirror for use on bicycles.

However, it isn’t likely to appear on a production vehicle. According to CBS Philadelphia, federal regulations require driver side mirrors to be flat. However, he believes that he may be able to sell the mirror as an aftermarket accessory and has already been granted a patent.

Number of available solutions

Hicks’ mirror is certainly novel and would offer a way to cut down on blind spots which, according  to the Chicago Tribune, are responsible for upward of 395,000 accidents every year.

A number of car makers build in blind spot detecting radar and proximity sensors into their cars, though it is often an expensive option or only available in luxury vehicles. Aftermarket radar systems are also available. According to Edmunds, a person can also add a rear-view camera to the rear of the vehicle, though that necessitates that a monitor be installed, if a car lacks one, to display the image.

Of course, there are low-tech solutions. According to the Chicago Tribune, a number of automakers already attach convex mirrors to the upper corners of side mirrors that give a wider field of vision to eliminate blind spots. If a car lacks factory-installed convex mirrors, stick-on convex mirrors are widely available, usually for a few dollars.

One can also just do it the old-fashioned way and adjust their existing mirrors. According to Car and Driver, one only has to adjust their side mirrors out so the rear quarter is just out of view of the mirror. That way, no overlap exists between the interior rear-view mirror and the side mirror, widening the field of view and eliminating blind spots.

Sources

Inside Line

R and D

CBS Philadelphia

Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-07-29/classified/sc-cons-0729-trans-mirrors-20100729_1_blind-spot-radar-based-rearview-cameras

Edmunds: http://www.edmunds.com/car-technology/adding-a-back-up-camera-to-your-vehicle.html

Car and Driver: http://www.caranddriver.com/features/how-to-adjust-your-mirrors-to-avoid-blind-spots


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