New mirror design eliminates blind spots with math, optics

The inherent lack of functionality in car door mirrors is baffling. They're designed to do one thing, but since they all have dangerous blind spots, they're doing a consistently terrible job at that thing. A math professor from Drexel has just gotten a patent on a system to fix this: it's not a fancy blind spot detection system, it's just a very clever mirror that doesn't suck.

Designing a mirror with a wide enough field of view to eliminate blind spots in cars without also curving the mirror so much that everything ends up all distorted is not an easy thing to do. If it was, it'd be such an obvious fix to such a big problem that someone would have made it happen ages ago. Instead, it took a fancy algorithm developed by Drexel University mathematics professor Dr. R. Andrew Hicks to generate an optimized mirror shape that gets the blind spot elimination without looking like you're driving through a Dalí landscape.


This new mirror looks like a gently curved surface, but it's actually made up of lots of tiny little curving mirrors pointing in subtly different ways, sort of like a disco ball if you ran it over with a steamroller. The resulting mirror surface is a smooth, nonuniform curve that provides a field of view of 45 degrees (as opposed to the 17 degrees that you get with a normal flat mirror) without any noticeable distortion.

The fact that this new mirror is absolutely perfect for cars and could prevent up to 4% of all automobile accidents of course means that it must be illegal to put on cars. According to the font of all knowledge and wisdom that is the government, cars manufactured and sold in the United States must have a flat mirror on the driver's side.

The best that we can hope for is that the Hicks mirror (which just got a patent this week) will be available as an aftermarket stick-on option, but beware the wrath of the big car companies, who up until now have been quite happy to profit from that complicated and expensive blind spot detection system upgrade package that you just bought.

R. Andrew Hicks, via Drexel

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