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PHILADELPHIA, June 8, 2012 — A subtly curved side mirror that eliminates dangerous blind spots for drivers has been issued a patent.

Invented by Drexel University math professor Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, the new mirror dramatically increases the field of view with minimal distortion by using a mathematical algorithm that precisely controls the angle of light bouncing off the curving mirror.

“Imagine that the mirror’s surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball,” Hicks said. “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.”

A side-by-side comparison of a standard flat driver’s side mirror with the mirror designed by Dr. R. Andrew Hicks, a mathematics professor at Drexel University. With minimal distortion, Hicks’ mirror shows a much wider field of view (the wide area to the left of the silver car seen in the distance, behind the tree, in this image). Hicks’ mirror has a field of view of about 45°, compared to 15° to 17° of view in a flat mirror. (Image: R. Andrew Hicks, Drexel University)

Traditional flat mirrors on the driver’s side of a vehicle afford drivers an accurate sense of the distance of cars behind them but have a very narrow field of view. This results in a region of space behind the car, known as the blind spot, which drivers cannot see via either the side or rearview mirror.

Hicks’ new curved mirror has a field of view of about 45°, compared to 15° to 17° of view in the flat side mirror. Unlike simple curved mirrors that can squash the perceived shape of objects and make straight lines appear curved, Hicks’ mirror barely detects any visual distortions of shapes and straight lines.

US regulations dictate that cars coming off the assembly line must have a flat mirror on the driver’s side. Curved mirrors are allowed for passenger-side mirrors only if they include the sentence “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Because of such regulations, Hicks’ mirror will not be installed on new cars sold in the US anytime soon.

The mirror could be manufactured and sold as an aftermarket product that drivers and mechanics can install on cars after purchase. Slightly curved mirrors are allowed on some new cars in certain European and Asian countries.