14-year-old develops system to “see-through” A-pillars

In the pursuit of safety, car manufacturers have been building bigger and thicker pillars onto their cars. Other than providing increased rigidity during a collision or rollover, the pillars also house safety equipment such as airbags for better protection during a car crash.

However, in keeping occupants safe during an accident, the chunky pillars might have inadvertently made avoiding crashes itself harder due to the additional blind spots.

Chunky A-pillars in the latest car blocks out a significant portion of the driver’s sight.

From seeing her mother’s struggle with these pesky blind spots in the family Jeep Grand Cherokee, 14-year-old Alaina Gassler was inspired to create her own solution that can help drivers “see through” the A-pillar.

Using a webcam, roof-mounted projector, projector screen materials, and some clever programming on a tiny Raspberry Pi computer, Gassler’s system captures the blocked view from the exterior of the vehicle, then projects the realigned visual in real time onto the A-pillar. Here’s a video showing it in action:

In order to project at such a close range, Gassler had to 3D print a custom part to properly focus the image onto the A-pillar. Pretty snazzy for a 14-year-old!

Gassler’s effort deservedly won The Samueli Foundation Prize in the Broadcom MASTERS science and engineering competition, earning her a cool US$25,000.

The 14-year-old inventor said that her first projector-based prototype resulted in bright images that are sometimes hard to see, and would like to work on a LCD based display in the future.

Gassler’s solution is a simple yet effective solution to a genuine problem. With car manufacturers already toying with the idea of using cameras as wing mirrors, we can definitely see this technology being implemented into vehicles in the future!


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