Blind Ambition: The quest to eliminate blind spots

By Gary Butler and Matthew Guy

Blind spots have kept us looking over our shoulders ever since we began driving. And while car design and technology continue to evolve, significant strides have been made 
in both reducing blind spots and heightening driver awareness when those areas are occupied.

On the manufacturing front, blind spot reduction and awareness is constantly improving through design engineering and new technology, including systems such as blind spot detection or lane departure warning. Breakthroughs in rear-view cameras and sensors also now allow for 360-degree situational awareness achieved via cameras placed around a vehicle’s underbody.

Derek Jenkins, design director for Mazda Design Americas (MDA), cites proportioning as a great boon in this area. As he explains it, modern automotive design embraces shorter dashboards (and closer windshields), which dramatically improves visibility, compared to decades ago.

“We’ve worked hard to move from cab-forward design to cab-rearward,” he says. Cab-rearward design yields better visibility because the driver’s view widens as the A-pillars (the vertical window supports at the front of the cabin) and touchdown points (where the base of 
the windshield meets the hood) are pulled back.

“Any broad view from the wheel offers safety,” says Jenkins, who notes that while pillars have increased in size since the 1970s to meet new safety standards, “we work hard to optimize pillar profile to maximize visibility.”

Jenkins is also in favour of mounting mirrors on the shoulder (or side) of a vehicle’s frame as opposed to the traditional on-the-pillar position. Though more expensive to manufacture, it allows for a better view. Some manufacturers are even offering extended and wider driver-side mirrors.

From shorter dashboards to a cornucopia of driver-assist technologies, will we ever get to the point where we never need to check 
blind spots? Not anytime soon. For now, we’ll just have to keep looking ahead in order to stop looking back.

Parents like to tell kids that they’ve got eyes on the back of their heads. Automakers have developed systems with a similar premise to keep drivers safe

What is it? A blind spot is an area around a vehicle that cannot be seen by the driver due to line-of-sight obstructions or poorly adjusted mirrors. Using sensors, cameras and radar, blind spot detection systems monitor blind spots for activity and give an alert when there is another vehicle in those areas.

How does it work? Warnings appear in different ways, depending on the manufacturer. Some vehicles display an amber light in a side-view mirror, others sound an audible tone through the car’s speakers.

Don’t forget: Parents tend to watch their kids using more than one of their senses. When it comes to checking blind spots, drivers should too. Detection systems are great, but they’re not perfect. Always check over your shoulder and be aware of your surroundings when reversing or changing lanes