14 year-old genius solves auto blind spots with award-winning science fair project: at Charter School [VIDEO]
Using some relatively inexpensive and readily available technology you can find at any well-stocked electronics store, Alaina Gassler, a 14-year-old inventor from West Grove, Pennsylvania, came up with a clever way to eliminate the blind spot created by the thick pillars on the side of a car’s windshield.
Over 840,000 of the car crashes that occur on U.S. roadways each year can be traced back to a problem area with which all drivers have experience: the blind spots caused by the A-frame of a car’s structure.
Despite over a century of constant improvements to automobile, there’s still no perfect fix for blind spots that the auto industry has uniformly accepted. But that might be about to change thanks to an ingenious solution from an unlikely engineering hero who can’t even drive.
First, meet her – then scroll down for more video on her project
It’s not just a fix for the rear blind spots, but also a solution for the front. If a pedestrian is crossing the street in front of your vehicle, for example, Gassler’s invention makes it so that you can see live footage of the person crossing the street through the A-frame with cameras, making them sort of like “ghost pillars,” she told Popular Mechanics.
Gassler, who engineered the projector-based technology as part of the Society for Science and the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition, took home a grand prize of $25,000 for her invention, which she completed while in eighth grade.
Gassler’s actually too young to have a driver’s license in most states and has never experienced the frustration of trying to see around those pillars while driving, but that didn’t stop her from tackling a problem that automakers have largely ignored.
Check it out:
Gassler’s invention isn’t quite ready to be installed in vehicles across the country just yet, but the technologies already exist that would allow it to be implemented in cars without serving as a distraction to the driver. Short-throw projectors could be installed at the base of the passenger side windshield pillar to create the image without having to worry about the passenger blocking the beam. And many cars have already replaced side mirrors with cameras, or include nearly invisible cameras in the rear for safely backing up, so adding one more on the side of the pillar would presumably be trivial.
Newer vehicles do have blind spot monitors that show a yellow or orange blip in the side mirrors when a car enters that no-man’s-land, but drivers can still miss objects in their blind spots up front if the A-frame pillars that support the windshield are especially thick.
Since Gassler couldn’t just get rid of those pillars, as they’re key to the structural integrity of the car and provide protection in the event of a rollover accident, she decided to make them “invisible,” in a sense, by using an internal roof-mounted projector that can show live images of what’s being blocked by the pillars.
“The camera is mounted on the outside of the A-pillar, records what’s behind it, sends that video feed to a projector that’s over the driver’s head and projects it onto the pillar,” Gassler explained.
The projector is just part of her initial prototype to prove her concept, says Gassler. The next iteration of her blind spot invention will utilize liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors that are the same quality used in some televisions. Gassler says this will allow the brightness to change according to the weather and time of day.
Gassler hopes to eventually sell her idea rather than start her own company.
“Tesla is always looking for the future in their cars, and I feel like my project would be something they’d be interested in,” she said.