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Disco ball-like side mirror for cars eliminates blind spots, without the fish-eye effect

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June 8, 2012

Dr. Hicks' mirror (top) as compared to a regular flat driver's side mirror

Dr. Hicks' mirror (top) as compared to a regular flat driver's side mirror

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While there are already various anti-blind-spot automobile mirrors on the market, these all tend to incorporate a very curved surface that drastically distorts the appearance of objects seen in them – given that drivers use their mirrors to avoid getting in accidents, it’s kind of important that those mirrors show the surrounding traffic as it really is. That’s why Dr. Andrew Hicks, a mathematics professor at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, has created a side mirror that eliminates the blind spot, while causing almost no distortion.

Although Hicks’ mirror is made up of one continuous piece of glass, it has a subtle non-uniform curve that is the result of tens of thousands of calculations. “Imagine that the mirror’s surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball,” he said. “The algorithm is a set of calculations to manipulate the direction of each face of the metaphorical disco ball so that each ray of light bouncing off the mirror shows the driver a wide, but not-too-distorted, picture of the scene behind him.” 

As a result, the mirror offers drivers a field of view of approximately 45 degrees, while any distortion of shapes or flat lines is “barely detectable.” A regular flat driver’s side mirror, by contrast, can only manage about 15 to 17 degrees.

Dr. Hicks' mirror (top) as compared to a regular flat driver's side mirror

Unfortunately, cars made in the U.S. are required to come from the factory with flat driver’s side mirrors only – curved mirrors are only permissible on the passenger side, and then only if they’re marked with the phrase “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Nonetheless, Andrew hopes that his mirror may become commercially available as an aftermarket safety accessory. He has reportedly already gotten some interest from investors and manufacturers.

Although Hicks first developed the mirror several years ago, it received a U.S. patent just last month.

Source: Drexel University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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19 Comments

I like the fish-eye. It completely eliminates the blind-spot even when dealing with steep ramps. It did take a little getting use to.

Slowburn
8th June, 2012 @ 10:20 pm PDT

Come to Europe Dr. Hicks!

Kris Lee
9th June, 2012 @ 03:01 am PDT

A simple inexpensive solution instead of using a system of cameras, video screens, or warning lights? One step back, two steps forward.

Ct
9th June, 2012 @ 05:46 am PDT

Hasn't MultiVex Mirrors, in the US, being doing this for some time now?

Fahrenheit 451
9th June, 2012 @ 07:22 am PDT

This is good stuff dont let it go the way of the intermittent wiper, can this algorithm he devised be applied to ccd's? Would be nice to fit a camera instead of side mirrors that didnt have that fish eye effect.

MasterG
9th June, 2012 @ 01:36 pm PDT

Terrific idea. Quite an advancement.

Facebook User
9th June, 2012 @ 06:31 pm PDT

Great idea. I'm convinced that most drivers fail to use their side mirrors at all or fail to use them properly when they do. I couldn't count the number of times I've gotten into somebody else's car and noticed that their side mirrors were turned too far in towards the car. As if seeing the side of your car helps or something? They should be configured out further allowing a quick tilt of the head left or right to see more.

Hopefully, this invention will not only help people see more, but also to instruct people on how to use their side mirrors. Until it is available, a few dollars at most any automotive store will get you two small circular side mirrors that will stick to the far edge of your current mirror and give you more side vision.

Gene Jordan
10th June, 2012 @ 02:28 am PDT

That is all well and good but it doesn't defeat the need to sway your head left or right in order to see. Another (potential) minus is that with more visual information to process, drivers might spend more time looking at the mirror than with standard mirrors. And that's practically a safety hazard.

What I would love to see instead is having the contents of the side mirrors projected at some point above the steering wheel, slightly to its left or right but within the driver's FOV. Somewhere where they are not too high so as to mix with their forward view and not too left or right so that they have to sway their head too much. How would this be applicable...? Cameras in place of or alongside side mirrors feeding to the car's dashboard (where we'll be seeing more screens anyway, by the looks of it -pun not intended-)

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης
10th June, 2012 @ 10:51 pm PDT

Way to go Hicks! Very cool.

Arf
11th June, 2012 @ 09:24 am PDT

If the cost of this new mirror is close to a regular mirror, it's a no-brainer.

I've had a small stick-on blind spot mirror on my driver's side mirror for many years.

It makes driving in traffic less stressful because you can be 100% certain when it's safe to change lanes.

robo
11th June, 2012 @ 10:17 am PDT

I like it. Then to get people to actually use their mirrors at all. As a motorcyclist, I feel a constant threat from drivers who hardly look at all before changing lanes.

Robert Allan Fox
11th June, 2012 @ 10:57 am PDT

Ingenious, but just a stopgap to the ultimate solution: eliminate human drivers. We already have cars that can park themselves faster and better than most drivers can. Antilock brakes and traction control are more proof that computers can operate cars better than humans. A computerized car would be able to keep track of all of its surroundings in all directions at all times, and even at great distances if they were networked. I, for one, wouldn't miss all the problems human drivers bring, including excessive horn honking, trying to beat the light, blocking the box, ignoring stop lines and crosswalks, illegal turns, illegal parking, tailgating, road rage, etc.

Gadgeteer
11th June, 2012 @ 05:14 pm PDT

The existing mirrors on your car are designed to display the blind spot, however, a very high majority of folks just don't know how to set them properly. Although this is a good idea the problem can be solved without wasting time and money on a new design if you just search the internet for "how to adjust your mirrors to avoid blind spots"

Brian P Bohnet
12th June, 2012 @ 07:02 am PDT

gadgeteer, i agree, taking the human error out of the equation is much more efficient

tampa florida
12th June, 2012 @ 08:29 am PDT

Increased fuel consumption due to drag?

sk8dad
12th June, 2012 @ 01:09 pm PDT

I recommend a product that I have used for Years and it has NO distorted view. Its called the Amazing Autobahn Mirror. www.autbahnmirror.com I have them in everyone of my vehicles and my entire family use them as well. Cheapest insurance I have ever found!

Tyrone Curry
12th June, 2012 @ 08:10 pm PDT

This product is completely unnecessary; simply adjust your mirrors properly. Most motorists adjust their mirrors incorrectly, leaving a huge blind spot on each side of their car. The method outlined in the links below doesn't completely eliminate all blind spots, but in order to miss something in that blind spot, it'd have to be bicycle sized and nearly touching your rear fender. Also, when adjusted properly, you never lose sight of a vehicle approaching you from the rear - as it passes you, you see it out of your peripheral vision about the time it leaves your side mirror.

http://www.smartmotorist.com/images/auto_mirror/mirrorsani3.gif

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

Leverett Hadlow Sr
15th June, 2012 @ 10:12 am PDT

I wonder why doesn't the masses appreciate the ingenuity of this invention. Well, give some inklings on how it works microscopically, it shouldn't be hard to realise it's a masterpiece

Akemai Olivia
16th June, 2012 @ 06:36 pm PDT

This is at least as good as Multivex (safetymirrorsonline.com) which are allegedly used by Indycar.

But you know what, personally I don't like projecting side mirrors, they get smashed into things plus they create much aerodynamic drag.

I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to make sort of a periscope out of fiberoptic cable somehow that feeds into the windshield-mounted rearview mirror and solve all these problems?

Grunchy
8th August, 2012 @ 11:41 am PDT
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