Teenager invents a clever solution to reduce vehicle blind spots
Blind spots are a huge problem in vehicles. Unfortunately, mirrors cannot cover all areas around a vehicle, which means that blind spots exist that prevent drivers from seeing others on the road; the taller and longer the vehicle, the bigger the blind spots. However, a 14-year-old Pennsylvania teen’s invention could help make roads a safer place.
Alaina Gassler was inspired by her own mother’s struggle with this seemingly unavoidable feature. Alaina said that she first noticed the problem after realizing her mom didn’t like driving their family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee because its A-pillars caused blind spots. The A-pillar design in a car supports the windshield and provides protection in case of a crash. However, their size and angle also create blind spots.
“There are so many car accidents and injuries and deaths that could’ve been prevented from a pillar not being there,” Alaina said in her Society for Science video. “And since we can’t take it off cars, I decided to get rid of it without getting rid of it.”
Her award-winning project, which she presented at the 2019 Society for Science and Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition is called “Improving Automobile Safety by Removing Blind Spots.” Alaina created a way to make the thick “A” pillars on a car appear invisible and reveal what’s going on behind them. Doing this provides a full and comprehensive view of the road.
So, how does the project reduce blind spots?
Alaina’s clever solution uses relatively inexpensive tools and technology that you can find at most electronics stores; an outward-facing webcam, which is attached to the exterior of the vehicle’s windshield pillar; the camera, along with a projector, emits a live feed of outside activity onto the inside of the pillar, and the image is in perfect alignment with the post. Doing this required Alaina to create custom 3D-printed parts, but the effect is a seamless blend of what you see from the windows and what’s in your blind spot.
Alaina won the US$25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize for her design. And according to the Society for Science & the Public, the prize is “the top award in the Broadcom MASTERS, the nation’s premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.”
“Congratulations to Alaina, whose project has the potential to decrease the number of automobile accidents by reducing blind spots,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “With so many challenges in our world, Alaina and her fellow Broadcom MASTERS finalists make me optimistic. I am proud to lead an organization that is inspiring so many young people, especially girls, to continue to innovate.”