Prof gets patent for side mirror with no blind spot

A Drexel math professor invents a side mirror that offers a wider field of view. However, it is subtly curved, so it can't actually be put on any cars sold in the U.S.

Comparing the standard mirror with Andrew Hicks' invention. R. Andrew Hicks/ Drexel University

Some things seem obvious and yet, to the lay and lazy eye, don't happen.

For example, why is it that so many side mirrors have blind spots? You'd think someone by now would have invented a side mirror that gives you a perfect view.

Speeding in the outside lane to solve this problem is math professor R. Andrew Hicks from Drexel University.

With the use of a fine mathematical algorithm, he created a mirror that controls the light bouncing off a slightly curved mirror. According to Phys.org, this results in a field of view of around 45 degrees, rather than the standard 15 to 17 currently offered by most mirrors.

The adorable thing about his algorithm's precision is objects in his mirror are not substantially smaller than they appear.

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

If only humans could have a wide, but not-too-distorted view of everything in life.

Still, you will be wondering why, given that Hicks has only just been awarded a patent for his creation, no one has thought of it before. Indeed, he published most of the science involved in 2008.

Perhaps part of the reason is that, at least in the U.S., curvature of the driver's side mirror is verboten. You can have curves on the passenger side mirror, but then it has to display the disclaimer about objects being closer than they appear.

So Hicks cannot persuade Ford and Toyota to take his fine invention and include it on their new cars for the U.S., although drivers could presumably buy aftermarket versions of his mirror and do the installation themselves.

Other countries have subtly different regulations, so Hicks is reportedly having conversations with all sorts of monied people in order to market his invention.

One wonders, though, if his mirror proves to be effective, why the U.S. wouldn't change its regulations to accommodate it.

 

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