Most of us will have seen the disclaimer on wing mirrors stating “objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.” Given how useless modern mirrors are, they might as well read “objects in the rear view mirror are just out of your field of view, being crushed under your rear wheel.”
A US boffin may have solved the issue of wing mirror uselessness, however, by inventing a new wide angle mirror. Drexel University mathematics professor, Dr. R. Andrew Hick has cooked up a new reflective surface with a massive 45-degree field of view, allowing the driver to see far more of the world behind him than the 15- to 17-degree field of view offered by conventional wing mirrors.
Normally, wing mirrors that offer such a wide field of view distort the image quite severely due to their curved surface. However this new mirror, which was recently granted a patent, doesn’t use a single curved surface – it uses several curved elements.
“Imagine that the mirror’s surface is made of many smaller mirrors tuned to different angles, like a disco ball,” said Hicks. “The algorithm is a set of calculations to manipulate the direction of each face of the metaphorical disco ball so that each ray of light bouncing off the mirror shows the driver a wide, but not-too-distorted, picture of the scene behind him.”
Judging by the picture above, the reflected image has minimal distortion and provides an enormously wide view of what’s happening behind the driver – enough to potentially eliminate blind spots along the car’s bodywork, while opening up a window to what’s happening further afield.
Sadly, US legislation states mirrors used on the driver’s side must be flat rather than convex, so this version isn’t strictly legal. You can, however, use the mirror on the passenger side, provided it has the familiar disclaimer that objects may be closer than they appear. But isn’t it about time we moved with the times and allowed wide angle mirrors on the driver’s side, too?
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