Teen solves vehicle blind spot issue using webcam and projector

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

The blind spot created by a vehicle’s A-pillar – the thick supports on either side of your windshield – is an issue that has plagued automakers and frustrated drivers for decades. Now thanks to the ingenuity of one teenager, the safety hazard may soon be a thing of the past.

Alaina Gassler, a 14-year-old inventor from West Grove, Pennsylvania, recently came up with a clever solution for a national science fair. The teen attached a webcam to the outside of the A-pillar which is used to pipe a live video stream to a projector that projects the image onto the A-pillar. Using custom 3D-printed parts, she was able to line the projection up perfectly on the A-pillar, essentially making it “invisible” by providing the driver with a live view of what’s going on in the blind spot.

Gassler’s project was presented at the Society for Science and the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition where it took home top honors.

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m4a4

TS Evangelist
Wait, the A-pillar is an annoying blindspot?
I've been driving for a while, and that certainly isn't up at the top for problematic blindspots. Not even close.

Heck, I can't even think of a situation where it has been a problem that I can't just lean forward for...
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
The problem here is that too many drivers refuse to TURN THEIR HEAD!! Since no one actually has 360 degree vision, this is essential.

Yes, we have mirrors and cameras... but does it really kill you to actually LOOK?
 

lipe123

TS Evangelist
Yikes I wonder how many of you actually drive?! Blind spots are NOT just the one over your left shoulder (Or right shoulder in other countries)
I can't even count how many times I've had to brake hard to not hit a pedestrian that started crossing the road ahead of me completely invisible behind my A-pillar.

I really wish car manufacturers would use all this fancy new flexible screen tech to make those pillars see-through and still allow airbag usage.

PS. Not all cars are the same, in my Sedan I have to grab the wheel and pull myself out of my seat to properly see past the stupid pillar or lean almost out of the side window. Just because you drive a truck with a lift kit and can see everything from the 3rd storey up doesn't mean everyone else bought the wrong car.
 

th3rookie

TS Rookie
She's probably the first for the invisible pillar but not the first with this idea in the automotive sector. Land Rover came up with the invisible hood on the Discovery Vision Concept;

 
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Capaill

TS Evangelist
A brilliant idea. I've had an entire truck be hidden behind my A-pillar while I'm approaching a roundabout. Pedestrians take a lot more effort to find.
Also do it for the B-pillar somehow as I hate having to take my eyes off the road ahead to look in the blind spot over my shoulder that my wing mirror doesn't cover, only to have the B-pillar block my view.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
A brilliant idea. I've had an entire truck be hidden behind my A-pillar while I'm approaching a roundabout. Pedestrians take a lot more effort to find.
Also do it for the B-pillar somehow as I hate having to take my eyes off the road ahead to look in the blind spot over my shoulder that my wing mirror doesn't cover, only to have the B-pillar block my view.
You may already know this, however, adjusting side mirrors is somewhat of an art, and it takes some effort in order to get it right. They are not meant to see behind the vehicle where the rear-view mirror sees.
Here's a very good video that gives the proper way to adjust side mirrors:
Pay particular attention to what he says and shows that as a passing car (on either side) leaves the rear-view mirror, it should enter the corresponding side-view mirror. I further tweak my side-view mirror so that as a passing car leaves my side-view mirror, I can see it with my peripheral vision on the corresponding side.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
I've two complaints about this.
  • For this to work the driver's eyes must stay inline with camera view. Could prove iconvenient if the cameras needed to be realigned every time the driver moved.
  • Lighting from projectors would be distracting, if it doesn't match real world environment. Especially at night when there would be glare from the glass.

I do applaud her efforts though. I will always applaud someone's efforts in making the world a safer place to be.

There is no easy way to keep real world view in line with camera view. The only solution I see would be to replace real world view with panoramic screens. And then hope the screens continue to function year after year.
 
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Ravey

TS Addict
The problem here is that too many drivers refuse to TURN THEIR HEAD!! Since no one actually has 360 degree vision, this is essential.

Yes, we have mirrors and cameras... but does it really kill you to actually LOOK?
In the UK, new drivers are taught to always look straight ahead and then to adjust your mirrors so you only have to glance at them to get vision around your car. This is because it's potentially more dangerous to look away from road ahead of you. It only takes a split second for a car in front to break heavily or a pedestrian to walk out into the road.

You should also take into consideration that if you are constantly turning your head to look around then your mirrors are likely set up incorrectly.

 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
In the UK, new drivers are taught to always look straight ahead and then to adjust your mirrors so you only have to glance at them to get vision around your car. This is because it's potentially more dangerous to look away from road ahead of you. It only takes a split second for a car in front to break heavily or a pedestrian to walk out into the road.

You should also take into consideration that if you are constantly turning your head to look around then your mirrors are likely set up incorrectly.
Not what I meant... the reason for turning your head is if you are actually heading in that direction.... People switch lanes or turn left/right without looking in that direction thinking their mirrors and cameras will be sufficient. Usually they are... but you still need to TURN YOUR HEAD when switching lanes or making a turn!
 
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Capaill

TS Evangelist
You may already know this, however, adjusting side mirrors is somewhat of an art, and it takes some effort in order to get it right. They are not meant to see behind the vehicle where the rear-view mirror sees.
Here's a very good video that gives the proper way to adjust side mirrors:
Pay particular attention to what he says and shows that as a passing car (on either side) leaves the rear-view mirror, it should enter the corresponding side-view mirror. I further tweak my side-view mirror so that as a passing car leaves my side-view mirror, I can see it with my peripheral vision on the corresponding side.
Very informative, thank you.
 

Ravey

TS Addict
You should also take into consideration; that mirrors no matter how they are set, do not and never will give the whole picture.
Yep, you can't eliminate it, but you can limit it to the point where turning your head isn't needed so often. For example only needing to turn your head when stationary at junctions.

If you need to turn your head while switching lanes on a Motorway, then you are doing something wrong.

Of course with the advancements in cars, this is all going to be irrelevant in few more years
 
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