By Sanjiv Sathiah
Sunday, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 5:03 am
 
As anyone who rides a motorcycle can testify to, passing through the blind spot of a motorist can be a scary experience - and it's only a marginally less scary experience when you're seated in a car. A Drexel University professor, Dr. Andrew Hicks, has developed and won a US patent for a mirror that virtually eliminates the blind spot in a driver's vision.

The new mirror uses a slightly curved shape that dramatically increases a driver's side and rearward vision with only the slightest hint of distortion. Unlike a traditional flat mirror, which has a narrow field of vision of just 15 to 17 degrees, Hicks' mirror offers drivers a much wider field of view approaching 45 degrees.

Unlike more sharply curved mirrors that increase the field of view at the expense of making them appear smaller and further away, Hicks' mirror offers drivers a much more realistic representation of what is going on around their vehicle on either side. He achieved this by using a complex algorithm involving tens of thousands of calculations that determines the best way to position the surface of the mirror to control the angle of light bouncing off it.

"Imagine that the mirror's surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball," Hicks 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."

However, despite the potential for Hick's mirror to reduce crashes and or serious injury or death, current U.S. regulations will not permit the installation of the mirror on cars for sale in the country -- cars must only have flat mirrors installed unless it is a curved mirror fitted to the passenger-side mirror and carries the warning "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear."

Unless U.S. laws are changed, Hicks' unique mirror design will more than likely find its way on to vehicles sold in Europe first with investors and manufacturers lining up to license and produce mirrors using the technology.