Automotive

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

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

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
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

19 comments
Slowburn
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.
Kris Lee
Come to Europe Dr. Hicks!
Ct
A simple inexpensive solution instead of using a system of cameras, video screens, or warning lights? One step back, two steps forward.
Fahrenheit 451
Hasn't MultiVex Mirrors, in the US, being doing this for some time now?
MasterG
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.
Ross Nicholson
Terrific idea. Quite an advancement.
Gene Jordan
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.
Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης
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-)
Arf
Way to go Hicks! Very cool.
robo
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.
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