Groovy “Disco Ball” Side Mirror Could Eliminate That Pesky Blind Spot

Carefully turning your head to the side to check out your blind spot while making a lane change could become a thing of the past, if a disco-ball inspired side mirror becomes a reality for cars. A mathematics professor designed and recently patented the mirror, which he says dramatically increases a driver’s field of view without distorting objects as much as other no-blind spot options.

While it doesn’t look anything at all like an actual disco ball (disappointing, we know), the mirror has a slight curve and uses a mathematical algorithm to reflect light in a way that is similar to the ’70s dance floor staple.

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

The mirror is still a long way off from being utilized on vehicles, as United States regulations say that cars must have a flat mirror on the driver’s side. Curved mirrors are allowable on the passenger side, as long as they have “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” to call attention to possible distortion.

Driving Without a Blind Spot May Be Closer Than It Appears [Drexel Now]


Edit Your Comment

  1. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    “United States regulations say that cars must have a flat mirror on the driver’s side.”

    That’s just for new cars off the assembly line – does not affect the aftermarket.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You can bet state laws cover this pretty directly.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Revised: I still believe that cannot replace your driver mirror with something else, but I’m also sure you can ADD an additional mirror. I’ve seen plenty of cars and trucks that do this.

        • crispyduck13 says:

          You can absolutely replace your drivers side mirror, there are many, many aftermarket options to choose from. Whether some asshole cop gives you a ticket for it depends on their level of assholishness.

          • DrLumen says:

            And if they will pass inspection. Texas usually allows the small parabolic mirros stuck to the regular mirror. I’m not sure about a full parabolic (or granulated parabolic) though.

            • operator207 says:

              Mine passed this year. I definitely have aftermarket parabolic mirrors on both sides. Blue tinted (supposed to reduce the glare of headlights. I guess they do, I don’t drive in the dark often)
              I bought them because the stock mirrors when pointed all the way out, still have ~1/3 of the mirror showing the side of the car. These along with putting spaces in the bracket that holds the mirror inside the housing, fixed them so I can see what I should be seeing, the big blind spot.

  2. StarKillerX says:

    Sorry but I’d rather have the blindspot then have anything even remotely related to disco anywhere near my truck. lol!

    • CalicoGal says:

      “Hicks noted that, in reality, the mirror does not look like a disco ball up close. There are tens of thousands of such calculations to produce a mirror that has a smooth, nonuniform curve.”

  3. Gravitational Eddy says:

    I’m still tryin to wrap my mind around this. I guess I gotta see it up close.

    Idea kinda reminds me of that non-reversed image mirror I saw. it wasn’t flat. it kinda looked like a inside corner of a box that had a edge to edge mirror surface in there.
    stare at it and you realize that it reflects you exactly. watch yourself in the mirror and touch your left ear, your reflection touches the right ear (the image is not reversed like a regular mirror)

  4. JMK from CT says:
  5. Stickdude says:

    Or, you could use the sideview mirrors as designed – to see objects to the side of, and not behind, your car.

    If you’re doing it right, a car to the side of you won’t leave your sideview mirror until you can see it right beside you – thus, no blind spot.

    • Cantras says:

      Amen. A Geo Metro on my driver’s side could probably be in my blind spot, if they knew where it was and were deliberately driving in it. Normal-sized cars come into view of my side mirrors before they leave my rear-view, and enter my peripheral vision before they leave my sideviews.

      Furthermore if you’re aware of traffic around you (admittedly unlikely on a long boring trip you’ve made a thousand times before), you’ll have seen that hypothetical Metro behind you before it moved beside you, so you’ll know where it must be now.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      This. You don’t need to see the side of your car in your mirror, you know where your car is.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I guess you don’t subscribe to Eistein’s Theory of Relativity.

        Of course you know where your car is, but not where it is in relation to other objects; at least, without a point of reference, such as even a sliver of your own car.

        • Sian says:

          so it’s impossible to have a implicit frame of reference for a space next to your vehicle?

          I disagree, sir. Though some people simply don’t have the spacial awareness to do this.

        • Chmeeee says:

          I switched to this method a few years ago. It’s disconcerting for the first few times you drive that way, because you’re not used to it and because you don’t have the side of the car as a reference. Once you get used to it though, there’s really no reason for either of those things. I use the rear view to see behind me, and I don’t need a reference. If I see a car in that mirror, then I know that car is next to me.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      What about motocycles, that take up less space on the road? If you can’t see the tip of your car in the side mirror, you can’t be 100% sure nothing is between your car and the start of the visiable area on your mirror.

      • Stickdude says:

        Personally, I adjust the side mirrors so there’s a tiny sliver of my car still visible – just so I have a frame of reference for what I’m seeing. It eliminates the problem you described, and it still allows me to keep a car visible in my sideview mirror until I can see it in my peripheral vision beside me.

        • Buckus says:

          I used to do that. Then I changed to the Car and Driver way. Takes a little getting used to, but eventually you get used to it and make lane changes with greater confidence.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          The way my mirrors are adjusted is that I have to lean over (not turn around) to see the side of my car to get that frame of reference. My mirrors are usually pointed directly at what is classicly everyone elses blind spot, and I lean over to see what most other people have their mirrors at 100% of the time. It’s easy and works on both sides.

          I don’t and never will understand why you need to stare at the side of your car with your rearview mirrors.

    • CalicoGal says:

      I’m gonna try this

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Also: while you can adjust your mirror to have 100% of your side viewable, that does not aid you in the nexrt lane over.

      Sometimes the scariest moment for me on the road is when I’m moving left on a 3+ lane highway, and I simply can’t tell if the person 2 lanes over is moving over or not, especially if they are a little behind me. Current mirrors do not account for that because standard side mirrors only cover about one lane to your left.

      • Stickdude says:

        In that case (multi-lane roads), I’ll still do a shoulder-check just to be sure someone two lanes over isn’t trying to move into the same spot that I’m moving into.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I typically do that, too. But in that situation, you’re doing a 90-110 degree head turn, completely eliminating any vision in your front. That’s dangerous, and this method seems to eliminate that danger.

    • dolemite says:

      I have my mirrors adjusted so I can see behind me when backing up. When I need to change lanes, I lean forward and look into my blind spot, then double check over my shoulder.

    • ReverendTed says:

      Yup. I’ve had my mirrors adjusted this way for a few years now. It’s nice to see a car transition from your rear view to your side view without disappearing in between.

    • FLConsumer says:

      Yep. This is what my German-born driving instructor taught us in Driver’s Ed and I’ve used ever since. I never understood the Amerikan way of pointing your mirrors at the ass-end of your own car. American asses are big, but you’re driving forward 99% of the time.

    • shepd says:

      I take it you have never driven a panel van, a u-haul, or other form of slightly larger vehicle? Or even towed anything?

      I understand CAR and driver being in that group, but I figured CAR and driver must be a relatively limited group of people (those who have only driven a car in their entire lifetime) who joined together to make a boring magazine. Clearly they missed someone!

  6. axhandler1 says:

    My Dad has had a blind spot eliminator on his driver’s side sideview mirror for at least 6 years now. It’s just a small mirror, about the size of a business card, that sticks to the regular sideview mirror in a certain spot. Does not block the regular view, and allows you to see if there is a vehicle in your blind spot by simply glancing at your sideview mirror. Yes, the image in the small mirror is distorted, but who cares? You can still see whether or not there is a car there, which is all that matters when checking your blind spot. It’s not as though when you glance over your shoulder to check it, you determine the make, model, and color of the car there.

  7. CalicoGal says:

    I don’t look back over my shoulder to see my blind spot, I lean forward and check my mirrors.
    I feel like looking over one’s shoulder takes way longer and can make you unintentionally turn the steering wheel.
    Also, stay out of others’ blind spots when possible.

    This sounds like a cool idea!

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      I used to lean forward too, but apparently that’s not the “right” way if you are going to do your drivers’ license practical exam, so I guess I learned to look over my shoulder.

      Also backing up — it gives me a crick in the neck to twist your head all the way to see the backseat window (as “required” [to exaggerate] in my driver’s exam), when I’ve always been able to back up just using the rear/side mirrors and occassionally turning my head to check the rear passenger windows.

  8. Harry Greek says:

    This man is going to be a billionaire once his product is approved and made standard for all cars.

    • ajaxd says:

      Will never happen. Nobody will ever approve a product which distorts perspective in such way (look at the picture in the article). Besides, as others have noted, your standard mirrors cover 100% of your vehicle if you take a minute to set them up correctly.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        The current system is barely sufficient. His model is superior, and does not distort anything. I saw the pictures, and saw no distortion.

        • Stickdude says:

          It significantly distorts the distance – relative to what everyone is used to.

          But, given that the angle of viewing is 3x larger than a flat mirror, it only makes sense that objects will be much smaller than they would be in a normal mirror of the same size.

          There would definitely be an adjustment period while getting used to the new mirror, but I do agree that it is superior to what we have now.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Reminds me of the guy who invented the delay on windshield wipers. Hopefully this guy won’t have the patent nightmare that he did.

  9. ajaxd says:

    I don’t see how it’s an improvement in any way. The picture appears to be more or less optically correct but perspective is distorted – objects appear much farther than they really are.

    • dangermike says:

      And this is why only the passenger mirrors are typically curved (and carry the “objects in mirror may be closer than they appear” warning labels).

      It might be an anachronism from when lane etiquette meant something, but if you’re changing lanes from right to left, theoretically, you’re moving from slower to faster traffic and the position and rate of travel of traffic in the new lane is very important to know. If you’re moving left to right, it’s less important because you “should” be moving faster than the right lanes. Admittedly, it’s probably all pretty moot. also, I don’t see how this is a significant improvement over the stick-on curved mirrors you can find in any auto store.

  10. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Does it come with an 8-track player?

    “See that girl, watch that scene, diggin the dancing queen…”

  11. TerpBE says:

    I have a feeling when people start using these, there will be a lot of accidents from people switching lanes on the highway who think they have plenty of room in front of that car WAAAY back there.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      That was my thought too. You gain the width by increasing depth. Sorta like a wide-angle lens. Nothing is as it seems.

  12. AtlantaCPA says:

    OK stuff looks farther away but it’s pretty awesome how much you can see with that thing! I think the disco ball comparison is a really bad analogy though, as some commenters here took it too literally.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’m wondering if the “distance” is a combination of camera angle, angle he’s holding it, and the magnification of the mirror. I’m sure it can be adjusted to change the magnification.

      • DrLumen says:

        Change of magnification would change the field of view or create distortions. Same as your computer monitor if you zoom into a picture. The physical size of your monitor (mirror in this case) actually limits what you can see. Increase the magnification enough and you are roughly back where you started with a flat mirror.

      • Stickdude says:

        Since I’m a programmer, I think of it in terms of screen resolution – a 100px by 100px window will be much larger when the resolution is 800×600 than it would be with a 1900×1200 resolution.

        This mirror, by virtue of the larger viewing angle, has a much larger “resolution” than a standard mirror. Therefore, objects in that mirror will be much smaller.

  13. aaron8301 says:

    Watching all you car drivers bicker over this is hilarious. In trucks, you CANNOT turn your head to check your blindspot. There’s no rear side windows to look out of, and the blindspots are HUGE. HOWEVER, we have huge flat and convex mirrors on each side, and can see our entire blindspots and behind us. I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles on freeways in my truck, and never had a dangerous incident changing lanes.

    Turning your head while driving is a stupid, dangerous thing they teach you in most driver’s ed programs. If your head is turned looking behind you, YOU AREN’T LOOKING IN FRONT OF YOU. I’ve had someone rear-end me because she turned her head to look to see if she could change lanes, and thus couldn’t see me stopping in front of her and hit me. Always keep your head pointed forward. Even if you’re looking in a mirror, at your gauges, at your stereo, etc., you can still see the road out of your peripheral vision. If your head is turned around backwards, you can’t.

    LEARN TO USE YOUR MIRRORS. Wherever you choose to point them, make sure you can see what you need to see so you don’t hit anyone, without turning your head. If your flat mirror isn’t enough, add a convex mirror. Personally, the flat+convex mirrors that are required by federal law on trucks should also be required on cars, albeit sized appropriately.

    • Moniker Preferred says:

      Here is a man who knows what he is talking about.

      Defensive driving schools, like the Honda Teen Driver program, teach you NEVER to look over your shoulder when you are driving forward. Get convex spot mirrors.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Agreed – I can see all around my car simply by leaning one direction or another while facing forward. I’ll often test to ensure my mirrors are accurately placed by watching the rear end of the car beside me in the rear-view mirror to ensure that its nose comes into my side mirror before its wholly gone from the middle mirror.

      It’s simple, I have no idea why people feel its necessary to stare at the sides of their cars.

  14. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i like to read back issues of popular mechanics and recently read a 1961 issue with a wiring schematic for how to turn your taillights into emergency blinkers.
    aside from the frightening historical variation on child restraint systems that i’ve read about, it’s tinkerers like this that have helped cars evolve. sure, some of those tinkerers are employed by auto manufacturers, but not all.
    someday i will say to some young person “in my day the driver’s side mirror was flat! and we liked it!”

  15. pk says:

    Yay Drexel!! (My alma mater)

  16. Blueskylaw says:

    “Groovy “Disco Ball” Side Mirror Could Eliminate That Pesky Blind Spot”

    This product officially approved by the Village People and the Bee Gees.

  17. Jennlee says:

    I used to have scary issues with blind spots and my Pontiac, but after I learned the right way to have my mirrors, courtesy of Click and Clack, no more blind spots! It takes getting used to, because it is not normally the way people have their mirrors. But it really works! Here’s the Click and Clack current page on it, although the link after is more descriptive of the method I heard them describe on the radio. Seriously, if you’ve got a blind spot, try this method of angling your mirrors!

  18. Moniker Preferred says:

    This story was somewhat more interesting the first two times I read it, about 10 days ago on other sites. Basically, the patent owners are trying to make their invention sound more interesting than it actually is.

    I’ve been sticking little convex spot mirrors (available in lots of stores) on all my vehicles for at least 10 years. They’re about $1 each. They work perfectly.

    Ford has gone one better and integrated the spot mirrors into their factory mirrors since at least 2010. I’ve got one in my driveway. Here’s a photo.

    Next story.

  19. gman863 says:

    Will there be a dash-mounted version you can do lines of coke on?

  20. icerabbit says:

    The thing I cannot understand is why the US government has not allowed car manufacturers to sell their vehicles with no-blind spot side mirrors that have been legally used on other continents for two decades?

    These no-blind spot mirrors have a small convex vertical outer lip on the outside, 1/5th or so of the entire mirror marked with a faint line. Normal view across the regular section on both mirrors and then a bit of warp on the outer part that covers the entire blind spot.

    I first drove a car with those mirrors in the early 90s and those mirrors are unequivocally safer in every day use. I could have sworn they would be the de-facto standard in a matter of years.

    Fast forward 20 years an in the US you are still stuck with mirrors from when cars were first conceived … and now we’re looking at utilizing $1000 radar, cameras, laser, satellite upgrades (so to speak on that last one, you get the idea) to do something that a marginally more expensive mirror can do, without power, software, … installed from the factory.

    No-blind spot mirrors could literally prevent and have prevented thousands of near accidents, accidents, injuries and saved who knows how many lives. Year in year out.

    So I am really baffled that the US is still stuck in the dark ages on this safety issue, as safety centric as they are. All because they probably wanted to prevent a typical passenger side mirror to be used on the driver side.