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.
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!