A wide angle side mirror that eliminates the blind spot for drivers without distorting the reflection of objects has received a U.S. patent. The mirror greatly increases the field of view with minimal image distortion, giving drivers an accurate sense of the distance of cars and objects behind. Traditional side view and rear view mirrors are either flat or wide angle. Flat mirrors don’t distort the view but cause the so called blind spot; traditional wide angle mirrors don’t have a blind spot but cause visual distortion, making objects appear smaller and farther away. The new mirror offers the best of both—blind-spot-free, wide-angle view without image distortion.
The inventor is Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, a math professor in Drexel University. Hicks came up with a mathematical algorithm that precisely controls the angle of light bouncing off of a curving mirror. The result was a patent for a side mirror with a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared to 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat mirror. And unlike traditional wide angle mirrors that distort the shape of objects and make straight lines appear curved, in Hick’s mirror distortion is minimal and allows accurate perception of distances.
Current U.S. law restricts the installation of curved, wide-angle mirrors on brand new cars. A curved mirror can be installed only on the passenger side and include the phrase “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” So, Dr. Hicks’s mirror can only be installed as an aftermarket part for now. But if the mirror is really what the patent promises, I’m for changing this law and making the guy rich—have you seen Flash of Genius (2008) movie?
The U.S. patent, “Wide angle substantially non-distorting mirror” (United States Patent 8180606) was awarded to Drexel University on May 15, 2012
What are the benefits of this invention for motorcyclists? Drivers using this mirror will be more likely to see motorcycles coming from behind. Plus, judging from the photo, Hick’s side mirror mounted on a motorcycle might offer the same benefits as on a car. I know that wikipedia says that motorcycles have no blind spots, but hey, a wide angle non-distorted-reflection mirror wouldn’t hurt.