Math professor's side mirror that eliminates 'blind spot' receives US patent

Jun 07, 2012
A side-by-side comparison of a standard flat driver's side mirror with the mirror designed by Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, mathematics professor at Drexel University. With minimal distortion, Hicks's mirror shows a much wider field of view (the wide area to the left of the silver car seen in the distance, behind the tree, in this image). Hicks's mirror has a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared to 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat mirror. Hicks's mirror received a US patent in May 2012. Credit: R. Andrew Hicks, Drexel University

A side mirror that eliminates the dangerous "blind spot" for drivers has now received a U.S. patent. The subtly curved mirror, invented by Drexel University mathematics professor Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, dramatically increases the field of view with minimal distortion.

Traditional flat mirrors on the driver's side of a vehicle give drivers an accurate sense of the distance of cars behind them but have a very narrow field of view. As a result, there is a region of space behind the car, known as the , that drivers can't see via either the side or rear-view . It's not hard to make a curved mirror that gives a wider field of view – no blind spot – but at the cost of visual and making objects appear smaller and farther away.

Hicks's driver's side mirror has a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared to 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat driver's side mirror. Unlike in simple curved mirrors that can squash the perceived shape of objects and make straight lines appear curved, in Hicks's mirror the visual distortions of shapes and straight lines are barely detectable.

Hicks, a professor in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, designed his mirror using a mathematical algorithm that precisely controls the angle of light bouncing off of the curving mirror.

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

Hicks noted that, in reality, the mirror does not look like a disco ball up close. There are tens of thousands of such calculations to produce a mirror that has a smooth, nonuniform curve.

Hicks first described the method used to develop this mirror in Optics Letters in 2008 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OL.33.001672).

In the United States, regulations dictate that cars coming off of the assembly line must have a flat mirror on the driver's side. Curved mirrors are allowed for cars' passenger-side mirrors only if they include the phrase "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

Because of these regulations, Hicks's mirrors will not be installed on new cars sold in the U.S. any time soon. The mirror may be manufactured and sold as an aftermarket product that drivers and mechanics can install on cars after purchase. Some countries in Europe and Asia do allow slightly curved mirrors on new cars. Hicks has received interest from investors and manufacturers who may pursue opportunities to license and produce the mirror.

Explore further: 'Moral victories' might spare you from losing again

More information: The U.S. patent, "Wide angle substantially non-distorting mirror" (United States Patent 8180606) was awarded to Drexel University on May 15, 2012.

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User comments : 59

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Feldagast
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2012
Still need to put that objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
Telekinetic
3 / 5 (6) Jun 07, 2012
Unless you're wearing a neck brace, you can always turn your head.
kaasinees
3.2 / 5 (13) Jun 07, 2012
a patent on a bend mirror...?
DaFranker
1.8 / 5 (8) Jun 07, 2012
I shall now claim a patent on curved roads. Inb4 Patent on Rectangular Buildings.
hopefulbl
4 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2012
perfect for nascar...I want to see Jeff Gordon try one
barakn
1.7 / 5 (15) Jun 07, 2012
This mirror is dangerous. It makes objects appear 3.5x smaller than they actually are, leading drivers to vastly overestimate how far away those objects are. This should never be used in a car.
ExRayz
2 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2012
I don't think I could adjust to this mirror. Too much information!
wizardgynoid
1 / 5 (6) Jun 07, 2012
Erm. That photo is not of the passenger side mirror. It is either a photo of the driver side mirror (in the US) or the photo has been *flipped*. Perhaps it's a photo of a British vehicle, but Drexler is in Pennsylvania.
Blakut
3 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2012
I thought that all driver side mirrors were curved?
limbodog
4.8 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2012
I'd love to get one for my car. City driving with bicycles scooting between cars every morning? It might save a life.
sigfpe
3.8 / 5 (10) Jun 07, 2012
@barakn Even ordinary flat mirrors should be banned. When you look at a car in a mirror it can look really small compared to the mirror. Drivers could be deluded into thinking there are toy cars behind them and underestimate the risk.
bmontana
4.9 / 5 (9) Jun 07, 2012
My motorcycle has curved mirrors on both sides. It really helps to see more. There is minimal difference as compared to flat mirrors. You get used to whatever you use. I prefer curved mirrors. In fact, my car has a curved mirror on the driver's side. Seeing more is good.
c_programmer
3 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2012
@barakn Even ordinary flat mirrors should be banned. When you look at a car in a mirror it can look really small compared to the mirror. Drivers could be deluded into thinking there are toy cars behind them and underestimate the risk.


It has to do with the size of objects relative to each other. A curved mirror distorts the size with respect to one another making depth perception nearly impossible and even giving false depths at a quick glance.
_ilbud
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2012
Erm. That photo is not of the passenger side mirror. It is either a photo of the driver side mirror (in the US) or the photo has been *flipped*. Perhaps it's a photo of a British vehicle, but Drexler is in Pennsylvania.

At no point does the article suggest that. In fact they specifically state it's the drivers mirror. I find it tedious that I checked your work and found you to be a fool when you could have done it and saved us all the boredom.
weirmeir
not rated yet Jun 08, 2012
Math Professor? Wow! The mount seems unrealistic.
MaxwellsEqs
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 08, 2012
There is no need for a "blind spot" mirror. The image above shows that the professor has improperly adjusted his side-view mirror. You should not be looking at the side of your car! Simply adjust the side view mirror out so as cars approach from behind, you first see them in the rear view mirror, then the side view mirror, and finally with your peripheral vision. No need to watch the side of your car as you drive.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
It makes objects appear 3.5x smaller than they actually are

As opposed to not seeing them at all? I'd think that getting knowledge with some distortion is less risky than no knowledge at all.

It has to do with the size of objects relative to each other. A curved mirror distorts the size with respect to one another making depth perception nearly impossible and even giving false depths at a quick glance.

I don't think that's the cas. The picture in a mirror is continuous. The continuous distortion will be something you get used to quickly. It's not like one object appears close and another object a millimeter to the side of it suddenly jumps to appear far off.
talker
5 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
to the man who said.."unless you had a neckbrace"......well friend...I had a broken neck years ago...and I cannot turn my neck...I have friend that for some reason or another cannot turn their necks....I have been praying for something like this for 30 years...i have to turn my entire body to look to my side to see my 'blind spot'.....where can I get one NOW!
dwight_enterline
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
There is no need for a "blind spot" mirror. The image above shows that the professor has improperly adjusted his side-view mirror. You should not be looking at the side of your car! Simply adjust the side view mirror out so as cars approach from behind, you first see them in the rear view mirror, then the side view mirror, and finally with your peripheral vision. No need to watch the side of your car as you drive.


Absolutely true. If you have a blind spot on your car, it means your mirrors aren't adjusted correctly.
itsthe_lawyersstupid
1.4 / 5 (8) Jun 08, 2012
so the math professor makes patent. how much of school/student time was used to make the patent. did this moron shortchange the students so he could personally benefit. after all thats what professors do - steal from students for personal gain. its the educators stupid. occupy the educator industrial complex - who's motto is "screw the students, its all about personal gain".
b_mclane
1.6 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
They already install sensors inthe existing side mirrors that glow GREEN when you are Ok and YELLOW when someone is in your blind spot.
Steve_B
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
I have been using what AAA calls the "Blind Spot-Glare Elimination" method for over 10 years. No fancy mirrors needed.
AJinIl
3.2 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
How can Dr. R. Andrew Hicks patent something thats been on the market for more than ten years ? I bought a new pick-up in 2003 and the first thing I added to it was convex mirrows that fit over the factory ones. You can buy them custom made for whatever type of vehicle you have. They are very hard to get used to but worth the $40.00 they cost.
Origin
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 08, 2012
The image above shows that the professor has improperly adjusted his side-view mirror
But he couldn't promote his nonsensical patent in mainstream press so easily, after then.
US regulations ban driver-side mirrors with a curved surface, but Hicks is hoping to sell his designs in markets such as Europe where they are permitted.
It speaks for itself. He just misuses the hole in the law. IMO it's not possible to see the image undistorted from all positions of driver. If driver would change its position, then he would see the image in the side mirror even more distorted, then inside of convex mirrors allowed in the Europe. It would lead to the new wave of law suits.
Abouttime4
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
About time someone figured this out. It is a pain in the neck to keep turning your head. Reckonthatis.com
Sig
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2012
"Yeah, there's a guy coming up on my left, but it looks like I got plenty of time to cut..." CRASH! BANG! BOOM!

So... Everyone's got this professor's name, and we know whom to sue now, right?

jam240sx
4.8 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
so the math professor makes patent. how much of school/student time was used to make the patent. did this moron shortchange the students so he could personally benefit. after all thats what professors do - steal from students for personal gain. its the educators stupid. occupy the educator industrial complex - who's motto is "screw the students, its all about personal gain".


Read much do you? This was at the end of the article.

The U.S. patent, "Wide angle substantially non-distorting mirror" (United States Patent 8180606) was awarded to Drexel University on May 15, 2012.
crash_froelich
4 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
As a lifelong motorcyclist, I'm used to turning my head to check but I notice that most cage drivers don't. Usually when they're trying to kill me. The problem with driving a car is that insufficient training is required for licensing and long years of sloppy driving lead to an unwarranted sense of confidence. This mirror can save lives. So could turning off the phone, turning down the music, putting aside the Big Mac, and taking the responsibility of safe automobile operation seriously.
yorik
4 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
...It makes objects appear 3.5x smaller than they actually are...

Enough of this (n)X smaller nonsense. You can't make anything more than 100% (1X) smaller (that is, nonexistent) yet alone 350% (3.5X). What you really mean is it makes the objects appear 28% of their normal size, or it makes them appear 72% smaller, assuming that's true.
Yirmin_Snipe
2 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
From the photo it looks like the objects in that mirror are also smaller than they should be in a flat mirror... then again isn't that exected? If you have to 4 x 5 mirrors and one show a wider angle of coverage doesn't that require that what is shown is reduced from the size it would be on a flat mirror with less coverage.
dschlink
4 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
Turning your head and/or "proper adjustment" of the mirrors is meaningless in larger vehicles. I have five mirrors and Fresnel lens in the rear window and still have iffy spots on my van. Like on the right side when the car is too short to be seen through that window. There's plenty of room on my side mirrors for one of these and a flat section.
stoptouchingthatmabel
2.5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
Mirror mirror on the car those objects appear to look quite far.
SavingtheRepublic_com
2.5 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
Sorry to say folks you dont need a mirror on top of the mirror already designed to catch the fictitious blindspot. The blindspot is a myth created by individuals who do not know how to use their side mirrors!

If you have your mirror positioned so you see the back sides of your car then you're not using the mirrors properly! You need to pitch the mirrors further left and right so you see whats in the lanes next to you! If done correctly a vehicle that appears in your rear view mirror on the left or right will never leave your sight, As it approaches say from the left rear the front left of the vehicle behind you should leave your rear view and be in your left side view and stay there until they pass you! You will either see them on your side or literally in the corner of your eye. the same is true for the right side... and NO I do ot use an oversized rear view mirror either! I can get into any vehicle and position the mirrors properly where there is NO blindspot. Its a myth kids...
SavingtheRepublic_com
3 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
.... Its a myth kids practice what Im suggesting on your local street with cars parked on either side. As you pull up along side one it should leave your peripheral view and immediately appear in your side view mirrors then as you pull away the vehicle on whatever side your testing will then appear in your rear view. As a matter of fact a vehicle at one point will be in both mirrors (side / rear) at the same time when done correctly!
Jim_W
2 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
It figures that government idiots would be the obstacle to implementation. People who could only get government jobs shouldn't be in charge of anything.
Yduts
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
You can set your mirrors in a way that eliminates the blind spots. You will need to let a few cars pass you to set this up properly. Set your driver side mirror out wide, you should not see the side of your own vehicle with this mirror. As another vehicle passes you on the drivers side you should be able to see the car pass from you rearview mirror to yor side mirror. The backend of the passing vehicle will be in the rear view while the hood will be in the side view. Before the vehicle disaapears from the side view mirror you will pick it up in your peripheral vision. Voila, no blind spot. The mirror adjust on the passenger side will follow the same rules.
jtx
4 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
The photo shown is misleading. The Vehicle-mounted mirror is improperly adjusted for the view shown. A properly adjusted mirror, to the driver should NOT show the side of the car in the mirror. The mirror is NOT for backing up. It's to see the blind spot. If you can see the side of your car, it's not set correctly.

With that taken into account, the other mirror DOES provide more of a view, however if the car-mirror was adjusted properly, it would likely already cover most of the new mirror's view and not cost the consumer any money.
wiyosaya
2.3 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
Once you figure it out, I see it as not particularly difficult to adjust existing side mirrors to eliminate the blind spot.

Basically, when a car approaching from behind starts to disappear from the rear-view mirror, it should start to appear in the side-view mirror.

Also, I have mine adjusted so that when the car disappears from the side-view mirror, it is visible to my peripheral vision.

That, as I see it, is all it takes to properly adjust side-view mirrors.

Granted, though, a side-view mirror with a wider field of view would be easier to adjust, however, the general public needs to understand this, and how to adjust it to eliminate the blind spot.

To me, the improvement is obvious.
wiyosaya
3 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
Unfortunately, there is some idiot here voting down the correct instructions on adjusting side-view mirrors. To that idiot, you have no clue what you are doing, do you? Please find another place to troll. Several people have posted the correct instructions for adjusting side-view mirrors. It is EASY to do.
Terriva
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2012
This mirror is dangerous. It makes objects appear 3.5x smaller than they actually are, leading drivers to vastly overestimate how far away those objects are. This should never be used in a car.
Another guy, who even got six downvotes for this comment. The PO is flooded with sociopathic IT nerds, who are wasting their time here and who are separated from reality.
TrinityComplex
3 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
While I agree with the people explaining how a mirror should be properly adjusted, there are MANY people who just don't/won't learn how to do this. It's easier to put out a product that will reduce the consenquences of people's idiocy than to remove people's idiocy. As most mirrors are slightly curved now, they still produce an image that makes objects appear farther than they actually are, and most people are used to that. One should still check their blind spot when changing lanes to double check the distance of anything that might be in your way, even if their mirrors are properly adjusted.

To those saying that this has already been on the market for years, they address that in the article. This mirror is designed to not distort the view as much as currently available mirrors.

I'm fairly happy with modern mirrors (when adjusted correctly), but I'd really like to try one of these as a comparison.
Terriva
2.5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
they still produce an image that makes objects appear farther than they actually are
You cannot beat the laws of geometry. If you want to see the objects in mirror undistorted, then the perceived size of least distorted objects must remain as low, as on the most curved area of the regularly curved mirror. The Hicks mirror therefore provides the image undistorted, but under huge increase (a distortion) of the distance (estimation) at the price. We could call it an application of uncertainty principle in optics: the lower spatial distortion comes with the poorer distance estimation at the price. The Hicks mirror lacks the additional optics, which would provide a magnification of the reflected image. Such a magnification would come with the decreasing of the observation angle and field of view.
Saab
3 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
My Saab already has this mirror, came stock on the passenger side.
Jay_Smith
3 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2012
The new CRV has a driver's side mirror similar to this. i told the sales guy when I got back from the test drive that it freaked me out every time I looked at it. He said almost everyone tells him the same thing.
It gives you the perception that your own car is sneaking up beside you!
jim_roof_10
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2012
This is great and everything, but if you know how to set up the side and rear view mirrors you can eliminate the 'blind spot' anyway. I rent about 6-10 cars per year and I have yet to get into one that cannot be set up properly. Additionally, I have yet to get into one that was even CLOSE to being already set up properly.

Here is a hint - you will never collide with your own vehicle. There is no need to see the side of your car in any mirror... ever. Set the rear view mirror to take in the entire rear window then set the side mirrors so that as vehicles get close to the edge of the rear window they start to appear in the side mirrors. If you have anything close to normal peripheral vision then as cars start to get to the limits of the side view mirrors you will see them with your eyes.

If you can see your own car in one or more side view mirrors then you are not set up properly.
russfelix
3.6 / 5 (5) Jun 08, 2012
Judging from the posted comments most people understand that curved mirrors can be a safety hazard due to distance and size distortion. Think why most U.S. cars are equipped with at least one flat mirror? Its because the auto companies know the first accident will bring a lawyer who will blame the mirror and ultimately the car company. Leave it to a "Professor" to put forth a bad idea as an improvement. I suggest you go to Discount Auto parts if you want a curved mirror.Both of my vehicles have 2 mirrors on each side. A flat mirror which I look at first and a curved mirror which I glance at before looking back at the road. It's a system that works very well. the mirrors are close together. The best part of this story is that he got a patent for this idea which has been around for years. The Patent Office is the handmaiden of corporate patent lawyers. Overlapping patents are a specialty. The good Professor should have come up with a mirror with a flat and a curved surface combined.
Iconoclast24601
4 / 5 (4) Jun 08, 2012
Several people whose comments question the merits of this patent appear not to have understood the simple basics of this article. This is not a patent on curved mirrors in general (we are well aware that these have been around for years), but rather a specific design based on a novel mathematical formula.

Several others comment that curved mirrors will shrink the image. Curved mirrors are commonplace outside North America, and we, at least, manage fine. Then again, I guess it helps that our culture is probably a lot less ridiculously litigation-happy.
russfelix
not rated yet Jun 08, 2012
This is a more complicated issue than it appears at first. Properly adjusted drivers side mirrors only show the lane beside the driver and part of the second lane on a 3 land road. On a four lane road you still have a blind spot. The second issue is those who have never used a curved mirrors over a long period of time are commenting on this. Almost any over the road semi truck driver will tell you there are times when you need those spot mirrors even with the large truck mirrors. As for the design of driver side mirrors, I have had 2 vehicles in the past 20 years that had what I consider inadequate driver side mirrors. One was an Olds the other a Sienna Van. In order to cover the blind spot, the mirror had to be adjusted so that you could not see a following car with a wheel on the line and about to pass.
PhotonX
5 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2012
to the man who said.."unless you had a neckbrace"......well friend...I had a broken neck years ago...and I cannot turn my neck...I have friend that for some reason or another cannot turn their necks....I have been praying for something like this for 30 years...i have to turn my entire body to look to my side to see my 'blind spot'.....where can I get one NOW!

Exactly my permanent situation. Besides, there could easily be a dual-mount mirror, one flat, the other this.
A_Paradox
5 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2012
I think the subtlety in the Professor's complex mathematical method may be that in relation to the common ways to achieve curvature, he has attempted to get the 'best of both worlds'. The standard way to manufacture glass for mirrors that are not flat would be, I think, to form it as a bend of radius 'x' in one plain only, or to form it as part of the surface of a sphere of radius 'y'. Either of those must have its pros and cons.

Dr Hicks seems to have gone for a different method, and the picture is intended to illustrate that on the level of the driver's eye sight there is minimal distortion to the image whereas above the band which would normally reflect overtaking vehicles [where drive on the right in this case] the reflection of the tops of the buildings is clearly bent.
Ness
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2012
I prefer normal mirrors with cctv plus sensor at the back.
wealthychef
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2012
It has to do with the size of objects relative to each other. A curved mirror distorts the size with respect to one another making depth perception nearly impossible and even giving false depths at a quick glance.

The point of this mirror is that distortion is minimized. It's like a high-quality wide-angle lens on a camera.
Mark_Richardson
not rated yet Jun 10, 2012
I have to question how well this invention will work in semis, as current mirrors only give the driver maybe 8 feet in width at the back of the trailer on the blind side, (or right side when viewed from the rear of the truck). Since using convex mirrors greatly reduces in size items in view as distance increases away from the mirror, motorcycles and even small cars may become nearly invisible at the distance of 65 or more feet behind the cab of the average semi that would use this mirror.
extinct
3 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2012
so they are just now discovering concave and convex mirrors? congratulations
SatanLover
0.7 / 5 (24) Jun 10, 2012
Apparently US.america is a third world country just now discovering curved mirrors.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2012
If "objects are closer than they appear" type mirrors already exist than what is so different about this design that it should earn a patent?
Origin
not rated yet Jun 11, 2012
If "objects are closer than they appear" type mirrors already exist than what is so different about this design that it should earn a patent?

This mirror shows them more distant uniformly across whole surface of mirror, i.e. it doesn't introduce a spherical distortion.
Riks
1 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2012
That clearly erroneous warning message on mirrors could be made valid with a simple change of word order:
Objects are closer than they appear in mirror.
Lewis Carrol notwithstanding, there ARE NO objects in the mirror.
gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Jun 20, 2012
SatanLover, three comments back, got a Rank: 0.7 - 5 (24) !!!

I wonder how anyone can get a rank below 1?
Maybe it's just some kind of an error.