Disco ball-inspired mirror gets rid of driver's blind spot

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Ever had trouble checking behind you while driving? Now there's a newly patented side-view mirror that claims to eliminate that pesky blind spot.

The math professor who came up with the "wide angle substantially nondistorting mirror" says it works kind of like a mirrored disco ball -- although it doesn't look anything like one.

"Imagine that the mirror's surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball," said R. Andrew Hicks, a Drexel University math professor.

"Each ray of light bouncing off the mirror shows the driver a wide, but not too distorted, picture of the scene behind him."

The side-view mirrors on most cars are flat, and while they give drivers an accurate sense of the distance of cars behind them, they have a narrow field of view, leaving a space behind the vehicle -- the blind spot -- that a driver can't see. And that means drivers have to careen their necks around to see fully behind them.

It's much different from the mirrors you can purchase at an auto parts store and adhere to the side-view mirror because it doesn't distort images.

Hick's mirror has subtle curves, giving the driver a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared with 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat driver's side mirror. It also prevents the image from becoming distorted. This week, the university announced it received a patent for Hicks' mirror on May 15.

But don't expect the mirror to come standard on new car models. U.S. regulations require new cars to have a flat mirror on the driver's side. Curved mirrors are allowed for passenger-side mirrors only if they include the phrase, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

Still, Hicks' mirror may be manufactured and sold as an aftermarket product that can be installed later.

 
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