Blind spots are areas outside the vehicle that the driver cannot see. Window pillars, head restraints, passengers, and other obstructions can block the driver’s view, creating blind spots.

Special mirrors can help reduce or eliminate blind spots, and blind spot detection systems use technology to warn when a vehicle, pedestrian or other object enters a blind spot.

What causes blind spots in cars?

Any non-glass part of the car can create a blind spot. This means that vehicles with larger window pillars have larger blind spots, and vehicles with smaller rear view windows have larger blind spots. Both the cargo and the passengers themselves can also create blind spots.

Blind spots widen as you move away from the vehicle. Even at moderate distances, the blind spot caused by the A-pillar can obscure large objects such as cars and people.

In the space between the driver’s peripheral vision and the area reflected by the side mirrors and rear-view mirrors, there is another type of blind spot. This type of blind spot can swallow entire vehicles, so it’s dangerous to change lanes without looking left or right.

How can technology help eliminate blind spots?

Mirrors can help eliminate blind spots behind the driver, but they still leave hidden areas on the sides of the car. The addition of a convex mirror for blind spots may allow the driver to see objects falling into these spaces, but because the mirrors are distorted, they make it difficult to judge distances. In some jurisdictions, it is even illegal to install a blind spot mirror.

blind spot mirror

The Blind Spot Mirror is a low-tech solution to the problem, but it doesn’t always eliminate enough blind spots to make a difference.
Robert Kouse-Baker

Blind spot detection systems use various sensors and cameras to provide the driver with information about objects outside the field of view. The cameras can provide a view from either side of the vehicle, allowing drivers to check if the blind spot is clear. Rear view cameras can be useful when backing up or parallel parking .

Diagram showing how blind spot detection works.
LifeWire

Other systems use sensors to detect the presence of objects such as cars and people, and this information can be presented to the driver in several ways.

Some blind spot detection systems are able to tell the difference between a large object such as a car and smaller objects such as a person. They simply warn the driver that there is a car or pedestrian in the blind spot. Some systems use an audible alert, while others display a simple warning in the corner of the rear or side mirror.

Which cars have blind spot detection?

Due to the growing attention to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), there are a number of different car manufacturers that offer some type of blind spot detection.

Volvo and Ford use a sensor system that alerts the driver if the car enters a blind spot. Mercedes, Nissan, Chrysler and many other automakers also offer their own blind spot warning, monitoring or alert systems.

blind spot detection and warning button
Marin Thomas / Getty

Some vehicles have a blind spot protection system, such as the Infiniti M-Series system. In addition to alerting the driver when the vehicle is in the blind spot, the intervention system resists the steering wheel if the driver attempts to steer or turn into the blind spot.

There are also many aftermarket products that can add blind spot detection to almost any vehicle. These systems can be based on a camera or a sensor, and they vary in complexity from one product to another.

Does blind spot detection really work?

There are important questions about whether blind spot detection systems lead to fewer accidents. Research from NHTSA discovered, that some blind spot detection systems were unable to detect the movement of slow moving vehicles in the same direction as vehicle testing.

Common sense suggests that blind spot detection technology can help drivers avoid crashes, but real data doesn’t always match expectations. In a HDLI study, lane departure warning systems were correlated with a higher number of insurance claims. With this in mind, if you have one of these systems, it’s important to remember that while they can help alert you to things you wouldn’t otherwise see, there’s no substitute for good situational and spatial awareness.

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