Blind Spot Avoidance Systems: Take Your Pick

July 14, 2010

“Out, damned spot! Out I say!” What lady MacBeth couldn’t do, the automotive technology community may accomplish if their efforts to eliminate the ever dangerous blind spot come together. Responsible for possibly 395,000 crashes a year, the temporary visual black hole is now under assault on a number of fronts.

MSNBC reported that a blind spot awareness system has been developed that uses vibrating motors in the driver’s seat to make them aware of their driving environment. The system applies continuous light pressure to the driver’s back. As vehicles enter a zone of concern vibration intensifies on areas of the driver’s back that alert him to the location of the car. This touch cue then allows drivers to ascertain the location of the vehicle without turning their heads.

“Our intention is to give you awareness that there’s a car in your blind spot, but not tell you what to do.”, said John Morrell, the inventor who is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Yale University. The idea is that when drivers are well informed through the information transmitted by way of the seat their avoidance maneuver becomes a natural next step.

And then there are other monitors that are radar based, as reported in USA Today. These systems use the side view mirror to display an icon representing an incursion into the blind spot. They may also employ sound as an alert device as well. Some systems integrate both sound and the icon.

Ford has committed to using blind spot detection systems regardless of the sticker price of the vehicle. This would fit in with the car maker’s push to include technology advances throughout their vehicle roster.

But the drive to eliminate the spot is not dependent upon technology alone. According to USA Today, a variant of the lowly side view mirror was actually more popular than radar in a group of 967 drivers who drove cars equipped with radar and then with a convex mirror in the outer upper corner of the side view mirror. The cost effectiveness of this addition at $10 to $15 a copy makes the cost of the radar system ($250) seem like an extravagance.

You need not wait until your next new car purchase to take advantage of this low tech avoidance system since they are available in a stick on variety at somewhat less than $15. However, you might find yourself in a minority since a study commissioned by a manufacturer of both products found that those preferring radar based systems had risen by 7 percent in a year.

The days of changing lanes only to be rebuffed by a horn blast or a raised middle finger may be on the wane.  

[USA Today, MSNBC]

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