• Aug 20, 2009
Before automakers started equipping cars with all sorts of blinking lights and beeping telltales, there were still ways to mitigate blind spots, keep your following distance consistent, and generally avoid accidents. Of course, nobody is going to deny that the public at large seems only mildly interested in steering 3,500 pounds of automobile in between stints on the phone, so the addition of radar-sensing systems like Ford's BLIS or Infiniti's Lane Departure Warning at least reminds inattentive drivers that there's a world on the other side of the glass.

Ford's Steve Kozak, when quizzed about the necessity of blind spot detection systems by The New York Times' Christopher Jensen, concedes that if most drivers adjusted their rearview mirrors in the fashion suggested by engineer George Platzer in a 1995 SAE paper, there'd be virtually no need for BLIS. Platzer suggests leaning far to the left and right while adjusting the respective side mirrors, which should reduce or eliminate any blind spot issues altogether. The reality is, though, that most drivers need all the help they can get. Not only is Ford using the Volvo-developed BLIS, but it's also taken up another of Platzer's mirror ideas, the BlindZoneMirror, as seen on the Ford Edge.

While manufacturers are fitting cars with gadgetry that's little more than a thin panacea to the cancer of inattentive, poorly trained drivers, we want the warning horns going off inside that car drifting into our lane just the same.

[Source: New York Times]


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  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I mean, I don't know what I would do if my car had this. Am I supposed to stop checking my blind spot? I'm not going to, because it's ingrained behavior. So then why do I have this thing? In case someone else drives my car? I don't want to pay for it.

      But everyone else should have it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I want a CCD camera fish-eye aft-view system.

      Get rid of the barn doors on the sides of cars altogether, and cut some drag.

      A wide array of OLED screens across the top of the driver's side of the dashboard, that shows a panoramic rear-view, from 95-degrees to 265 degrees. (360/0 being the car's heading.)

      Add to that a switchable reversing system that can actually see a shifted view, that instead of focusing on the horizontal rear view, to a downward angle, that can see down to the ground around the car, that can overlay visual signals from the sonar parking distance sensors.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love the BLIS on my new Fusion. It's quicker because once you see the orange dot, you know it's not safe.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Or you just set your mirrors correctly and you see the car coming from behind you and then itll switch to the side mirror as it just leaves the rearview mirror then youll see it in your peripheral vision as its leaving the side mirror.

        Just another useless "safety" feature that can easily be fixed if people adjusted their mirrors correctly and not so you see the exact same thing in every mirror.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've always used the correct method of adjusting my mirrors in every car I've owned and it works perfectly.
      Basically you set the 3 mirrors so that as a car in the lane next to you passes you, when its headlights fall pass from view from one mirror, another picks it up.

      Only issues I've found is motorcycles can still be somewhat hidden if they are in a very narrow zone, and you need to readjust the mirrors if you want to see where the curb (or how close the car next to you is) when parallel or close quarters parking.

      But otherwise I always know when there is a car next to me, or how far away behind me it is.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's called Situational Awareness. You have to check your mirrors constantly so that you know who is around you and where at any given time. And if a quick shoulder check puts you in danger of running into the person in front of you, then maybe you should increase your following distance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        please be wary of motorcycles
        • 5 Years Ago
        Dondonel,

        I think the point that you're missing is that when the mirrors are aimed like described, there isn't a blind spot for the car behind you to move into when you move your head. The image at the inner edge of the side mirrors lines up with the outer edges of the center mirror. By the time the car has moved to outer edges of the side mirrors, it's now in your peripheral vision (unless your car has tiny mirrors). It is never in a spot you can't see.

        I've been doing this for years as well and can testify that it works as long as you have a three-mirror system. For towing or carrying cargo that blocks the center mirror, then you need the split-mirror arrangement that you describe.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Setting the mirrors 'right' does not solve anything. You need all the visual information in one place, otherwise by the time you move your head from one mirror to the other a car can move in the blind spot.

        Looking over the should is good but presents a big problem in that you don't see in front of you while looking over the shoulder. At highway speeds that can quickly become dangerous. So few people do it right that is more of a danger in itself than a safe driving practice.

        Blind spot alarms are not good either. You don't visually see what's happening, so you still have to look over the shoulder when you eventually decide to change lanes. Another problem is that they are not reliable, false alarms and no warnings are common.

        The only real solution to this is the split mirror that you find sometimes on trucks. It adds a mirror that compresses the field of view to the side or below the regular mirror. It completely removes the blind spot. It takes a while to adapt to it (for a week you can feel dizzy when you're using it), but after that changing lanes becomes much safer and faster. Unfortunately this type of mirrors are not offered (at least as options) in the other car segments.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Posting as another driver with correctly aimed side-view mirrors. Adjust your mirrors correctly and your blindspot will be so far behind your car that it has no affect on your ability to change lanes. And really, who out there is not paying enough attention to the traffic around them to not know when a car is near them? If they're not paying that much attention, they shouldn't be driving.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I never understood why split mirrors aren't common on passenger cars and light trucks - it seems pretty inexpensive, low-tech and effective.

        What is the down side?
        • 5 Years Ago
        In Europe, most if not all cars have split driver side rearview mirror, the outer edge is convex-shape and while it slightly distorts the image, it reduces the "blind spot" or "dead angle". I haven't been paying attention to that here in the White North, but the cars I've driven here didn't have that feature.....
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm just waiting for that scene we see in "I Robot":

      "What, are you crazy? You're driving in manual mode?"

        • 5 Years Ago
        PJ, +1, my sentiments exactly! My frustration is that on a lot of new cars, and because its cool and efficient to 'bundle' options now, there is usually a myriad of this excess crap in the 'technology package' for $3K. Instead of just being able to get a nav system, you need to get rearview cameras, parking sensors, blind spot alert systems, smart cruise control, and best of all the 'lane departure alert system' --- are you kidding me!!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ha, indeed.

        Anyway, to answer the question ("Do costly blind spot systems... fix a problem that doesn't really exist?"): YES.

        There is no such thing as a "blind spot" unless you aim your side mirrors at the back of the car, which only makes sense if think you need three rearview mirrors. Turn your wing mirrors out toward the sides (fully or near-fully on most cars), and objects passing alongside you will move from the rear view mirror, to the side mirror, to the windshield without interruption.

        As a bonus, it's free.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There is also a little thing called a shoulder check.

      with mirrors set properly and a quick shoulder check, blind spots don't exist.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about instead of putting the money into blind spot radar systems they just try to eliminate the blind spots. It's much more difficut to see out a car that was built today than it is to see out a car that was built ten years ago.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've been telling people for YEARS that they've all got their mirrors turned in too far - resulting in lots of unnecessary head swiveling when they want to change lanes.

      I set my mirrors this way: Driving down the highway, I watch for a car behind me in the rearview mirror that will eventually overtake my car. I adjust the side view mirrors so that as the car is LEAVING the view of the rear view mirror, it is JUST APPEARING in the side view mirror. That way, I have the widest possible continuous field of view.

      People have been trained to use their side-view mirrors as rear view mirrors - which is incorrect.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In total agreement. I've been setting my side mirrors like that for the past twenty years, and haven't sideswiped a family of five into the ditch yet.

        The other issue, at least for automotive enthusiasts, is that these systems pollute the roadways with more false radar alarms.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This has been my pet peeve for a while - I also adjust my mirrors so my side mirrors actually point to the sides and not the rear, so cars transition from one mirror to the other and then to my peripheral vision.

        What gets me though is, when I even suggest this to other people, they FREAK OUT and demand I put their mirrors back because they *have* to see the sides of their car!

        The state of driver education is disgusting. So many senseless tragedies could be avoided with a defense driving course tacked on the usual joke of driver's ed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      We don't need these systems. Morons who don't know how to check mirrors shouldn't have passed their driving test to start with. And they shouldn't be driving. Period.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No, these systems just further lobotomize drivers. If you don't have time to check your blind-spot then you have no time to change lane. If you absolutely have to change lane (accident avoidance) you are not going to check the blind-spot anyways, be it visually or virtually.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought it's more effective to spend hundreds of dollars rather than relying on a free solution that works just as well?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's a good idea, but since my first car I always had those little round mirrors on my side windows so I can see my blind spots that I buy from the car stores. They should have those little extra mirrors standard, I think it would help alot.
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