Automotive side mirrors have changed little in decades. On nearly any car you'd care to name, they are squarish reflectors which cover little area and often leave huge blind spots for the driver. In Driver's Education classes, we're taught to "look over our shoulder" in order to make up for this shortcoming, despite many newer cars having little to no visibility from that angle either. A new innovation wants to change all of that, but government regulation prevents it from being used.
While some of us have taken to adding round, convex mirrors to the corners of our side rear views in order to enhance the breadth of their vision, most people just live without seeing what's going on behind them clearly. This results in over a thousand deaths a year - an estimated 4% of all automotive fatalities in the U.S.
A new mirror design from Drexel University mathematics professor Dr. R. Andrew Hicks wants to change that. He's received a patent for a new mirror design that will defeat the purpose of all those fancy (and expensive) blind spot detection systems being added to high-end cars today. Dr. Hicks came up with an algorithm that creates a mirror surface that can see a much, much broader view than a standard flat mirror of the same size.
Dr. Hicks' mirror is technically a curved design, but it uses a combination of refraction and multi-surface cutting to create a 45-degree viewing area. A current mirror has a 17-degree view, for reference. The design creates this view without the distortion normally associated with curved mirrors.
But that won't stop government regulations from preventing it being used as a factory-installed option. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that the driver's side mirror be flat. Not that it's view be flat, but that its surface be so. Given the long, tedious, and onerous process of changing bureaucratic law, it's highly unlikely that a professor from Drexel is going to get it changed so that his innovation can become standard safety equipment on today's automobiles.
The best we can hope for is an after-market offering, but don't expect this to get widely adopted anytime soon.
Aaron is a freelance writer living in Wyoming, USA. He is an accredited member of the International Motor Press Association and the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group. Here at Torque News, Aaron focuses primarily on Nissan. He has been published in many places, both online and off, and has a background in information technology, business, automotive maintenance and repair, as well as commercial transportation. He currently holds a Class A commercial driver's license and is the founder of GreenBigTruck.com. You can find him at AaronOnAutos.com. Follow Aaron on Twitter at @MacAaron.