AlainIt took a 14-year-old girl from West Grove, Pennsylvania, to design a prototype we didn’t even know we needed, to eliminate the blind spots of a car. Alaina Gassler won a $25,000 prize for her efforts which were inspired by her mom after the eighth-grader noticed her mother preferred not to drive the family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, because of a design flaw: the blind spots caused by the use of A-pillars.
The A-pillar design serves to not only hold the windshield, but to provide protection in the event of a car crash. The problem is the size and angle of the A-pillar creates blind spots, or areas of the road not visible to a driver from where they are sitting or even from the rear view or side mirrors.
“There are so many car accidents and injuries and deaths that could’ve been prevented from a pillar not being there,” said Gassler in her acceptance speech. “And since we can’t take it off cars, I decided to get rid of it without getting rid of it.”
Gassler used several technologies to attack the problem, incorporating a webcam, projector, and a 3D printed adapter and retroreflective fabric. The teenager used these items to render the A-pillars invisible by projecting the missing image causing the blind spot onto the pillar itself.
The webcam is first attached to the car directly onto the A-pillar. Next, a projector is mounted to the inside roof of the car. The projector is used to broadcast the images from the webcam. For her project, Gassler also printed a custom 3D piece which allows the projector to get a closer focus. Finally, retroreflective fabric was used as a cover for the A-pillar to reflect light from the projector back onto the light source, so it doesn’t bounce in all directions.
The idea is so ingenious and yet so simple, we wonder that no one thought of this before, for instance car manufacturers. It sure does sound as though it could save a lot of lives. Gassler, in fact, comments that in researching the issue of blind spots, in preparation for her project, she discovered that there are 840,000 blind spot related car accidents per year just in the United States, alone.