Many of today’s vehicles feature thick pillars on either side of the windshield that create challenging blind spots for drivers, but an enterprising fourteen-year-old has crafted a prize-winning possible solution, reports The Verge.
Prompted by what she saw as a safety hazard and the fact that her older brother just learned to drive, Alaina Gassler took a multimedia approach to solving the blind spot issue.
First she placed a webcam on the outside of the pillar on the passenger side, and then used a small projector to display the live feed onto the inside of the pillar, according to the report. Next, Gassler 3D printed a component for the projector to make the image clearer and lined the pillar with a special fabric, so that it only reflects the image back to the motorist. Finally, her father tested out the prototype invention on their Jeep Grand Cherokee, which features large pillars.
The objective was to provide an uninterrupted field of view. While the technology isn’t perfect, it appears to be a solid step in the right direction.
Right now, the image from the camera is shaky and the projection doesn’t blend seamlessly with the view, notes the report. Gassler’s next attempt of the invention will use LCD screens for sharper visibility in daylight.
Meanwhile, automakers have been brainstorming along the same lines. Hyundai and Kia applied for a patent with a similar solution involving cameras and projectors in 2018, and Continental developed a similar concept using cameras and screens. Toyota, Jaguar and Land Rover have all researched or sketched out ideas for solving the blind spot problem, too, notes the report.
Gassler’s invention is impressive, but could bring with it unforeseen legal concerns. For example, one possible technical problem is the fact that front car pillars often house airbags, a critical safety feature, notes The Verge.
In the meantime, the aspiring young inventor has been recognized with the Samueli Foundation Prize along with $25,000. Not bad for fourteen. Just imagine what she’ll do when she’s forty.
Alaina's father Paul posted a video showing how the system works on YouTube. It has garnered more than 3.45 million views since Oct. 24.