Cars have several blind spots, and one of them is caused by the A-pillar. Yes, the A-pillar especially on the far side of the front passenger compartment blocks the line of sight during a drive. As a result, you may end up getting an unwanted surprise when a pedestrian suddenly appears without you noticing their approach.
Now, Alaina Gassler, a 14-old middle school student from West Grove, Pennsylvania came up with a simple yet quite innovative solution for this blind spot dilemma. She presented her project – dubbed "Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blind Spots" – during the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars), a national contest for middle school students organized by the Society for Science and the Public.
Gassler’s project was so innovative that it made her secure the top place in the national contest. Moreover, she brought home the Samueli Foundation Prize for overall STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) excellence, which was worth $25,000.
The recipe for her blind spot removal system is quite simple – install a webcam and project the image onto the inner A-pillar with a special material. No special sensors and no special glasses or LED installed onto the inner frame. The trick here is the positioning of the projector and the special material that covers the A-pillar.
Gassler mounted the hardware on the passenger side A-pillar. Then, she attached a projector on the car’s roof just above the driver's seat. The image from the webcam is sent to the projector, which - with the help of a special part - then projects it to the inner A-pillar. Just like magic, the A-pillar seems gone and the driver can now see the spot usually hidden by the frame.
She admits that at first, there were issues with projecting the image onto the A-pillar. So, Gassler used a retro reflective fabric that only reflects light back to the light source. Since the light source – the projector – is positioned just above the driver’s head, only the driver can clearly see the projected image. As for the passengers, they could only see a black piece of fabric.
To be fair, carmakers are already offering a number of blind spot detection systems using sensor devices. These systems usually provide a visual or even audio alert to warn the driver that a vehicle or a person is on the car’s blind spot.
Gassler’s invention, meanwhile, practically removes the blind spot caused by the A-pillar. We are hoping that someday, her innovative invention will find its way onto vehicles built by mainstream automakers.
(via Mashable SEA)