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Radar For Safer Driving 484

KarmaOverDogma writes "The New York Times reports that in the next few years, auto manufacturers may look to use low powered phased-array radar in the back of cars, in combination with enhanced mirror displays, to help reduce accidents related to so-called 'blind-spots.' The system currently under devlopment is a result of a partnership between Valeo, an auto parts supplier, and Raytheon, a military contractor. They note that according to data from the NHTSA, In the last 10 years such (blind-spot) accidents led to 1.5 million injuries and caused more than $360 billion in damage in the United States alone. With an expected cost of around $500.00 (depending on the configuration), will this low-power radar system from the 1970's really help make driving safer?"
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Radar For Safer Driving

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  • A slightly longer version of the article can be found here: /0,4386,233212,00.html []

    And here is the NYT Text for those of us who value privacy online:

    Radar Brings Vision to Cars' Blind Spots By TIM MORAN
    Published: February 2, 2004

    Valeo Raytheon Systems A radar system that scans adjacent lanes and flashes a warning icon in the rearview mirror could reduce lane-change collisions. PHASED-ARRAY radar, a technology used by the military to guide missiles
    • 360 degrees (Score:3, Funny)

      by scsirob ( 246572 )
      I doubt this will fix the issue of drivers with a 360 degree blind spot...
    • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:07PM (#8204281) Homepage Journal
      Great...something ELSE to set off my radar detector with false signals.....


    • If you translate this from the North Carolina numbers [], car accidents cause less than 1% of deaths. (Warning... link to my own site)

      We spend all of this money on preventing car accidents... when smoking and obesity kills a lot more people.

      At least in North Carolina cars will fly before we spend that money against smoking and obesity however.
      • Nope, then we will spend all that money against flying cars becuase of all the additional blind spots!
      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @04:21PM (#8205497)
        Two points to this knee-jerk comment:

        1) Smoking and obesity are choices that people make for themselves, which generally only affect themselves. If someone wants to smoke and give themselves lung cancer, that's not my problem and I really don't care unless they try to smoke near me (which is why anti-public-smoking laws are good), or they try to get the government to use my tax money to pay for their health care. (The issue of how it affects the children they live with is something different altogether I won't get into.) Car accidents are something that certainly can affect me, since I have to share the road with all the other moron drivers out there. Anything that can help these morons to avoid hitting me is probably a good thing. Of course, I make mistakes sometimes too, so I wouldn't mind having such a system to keep me from hitting someone as well.

        2) What's with this "We spend all this money... when smoking and obesity kills a lot more people?" Who's "we"??? I'm not paying for these radar systems, unless I decide to purchase a vehicle with one installed. The technology was developed by the government for missiles, which is part of the government's job of providing a military and defense. So the basic technology is already developed and paid for, for a purpose that had nothing to do with cars. Now, some private companies are spending their own money to further develop this technology for use in cars. Obviously, they're spending this money (of their own) because they anticipate making profits by selling this technology to the automotive industry suppliers. Eventually, the people paying for this will be the people who buy cars that include it. If you don't like it, you're free to not buy such a car.

        Just because someone somewhere is spending money on something that doesn't save the maximum number of lives in your eyes doesn't mean it's wasted, and is really none of your business when it's their own private money, not yours. How the hell do you think these companies would even be able to do anything about smoking and obesity? One's a defense contractor and one's an automotive supplier.
    • by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:29PM (#8204645)
      If you properly adjust your mirrors, there is no blind spot.

      Most people adjust their side mirrors so that it shows the rear edge of their car and the lane directly behind them. You see much the same thing in your side mirrors as you do in your rearview mirror.

      Instead, lean your head to your left until it touches the window glass, then adjust the left mirror until you can just see the left rear corner of the car. Lean your head approximately the same distance to the right, until your head is near the middle of the car, and adjust your right mirror until you can just see the right rear corner of the car. When you sit up straight, you will no longer have a blind spot. Your side mirrors will no longer show you a distance view of the lane to either side, but you can easily see those positions in your rear view mirror. If you drive past another car, you will see the rear of the other car in your side view before the front drops out of sight in your peripheral vision. As you move past, you will see the rear of the car show up in your rearview mirror just before the front disappears from your side view mirror. No blind spot at all.

      It will take a few days of driving for you to adjust yourself to the different view in your side mirrors; it will seem a bit awkward at first. But you really will have no blind spot.
      • Nothing beats shoulder checks, unless you're in a crap car with poor visibility. In which case, I hope you pay more insurance.

        The fact of the matter is, many places instruct the driver to set up their mirrors with the edge of the car visible. I personally think having the mirrors set for the blind spot is much more dangerous. I also like having the edge of the car visible as a frame of reference.

        There are many situations where you need an alternative to the rear-view mirror. This is especially importa
      • I bought a pair of these [] and installed them, which took all of ten minutes. Cost me around $100 (I was part of a group purchase, so I got them for a lot less than the listed price).

        What blind spot? No fancy radar required. Why do we need to go high tech when all we need to do is change the requirements for new vehicles to come with mirrors like this from the factory? Radar can fail, takes power, etc. A mirror ... is just a mirror.

        Yes, these do work. I've avoided quite a lot of dangerous merges, and been w
      • Or you could just distrust your mirrors and look over your shoulder like you were taught to back when you were learning to drive.

  • by n1ywb ( 555767 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:05PM (#8204238) Homepage Journal
    Or you could just check your mirrors and then look over your shoulder before changing lanes like they teach you to do in freakin driver's ed!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:10PM (#8204324)
      But if I turn my head, my cell phone will fall from beneath my chin into the cup of coffee I'm drinking while speeding.
    • Exactly. You would think that if we can train drivers to use a high-tech radar array thingy, we can train them to do a bloody blind-spot check. I look where I'm going when I drive; If I change lanes, I look to make sure the lane is clear first. And no, IANARocketScientist. :P
    • I think it's funny that they "enhance" the mirrors with a flashing display instead of simply hooking up some video cameras so your "mirror" would display the blind spot in the first place.

      I like the radar, but with cameras so cheap and common you'd think no one should have a blind spot anymore.

      BTW, looking over your sholder in heavy traffic is dangerous. Yeah, you currently need to do it, but if it could be avoided it would save a lot of rear-end accidents.

    • Lets see you do that with a bad back.
      Or when you're in heavy traffic.
      Or when pulling a trailer
      or if your car's structural supports are in your way.
      • The trailer situation is a tricky one. The radar system would be tuned to each model car it was installed in. It won't check an additional one-trailer-length behind the car. The hardware would have to be changed for each trailer configuration.

        I guess the "towing package" blind-spot radar would have twice as many radar arrays. When you hooked up something to tow, the software would switch to the 10-foot-longer radars. The designers would have to make certain assumptions about how long an item you were going
    • Drivers often compensate for blind spots by turning their heads to glance out the side window. But there is a drawback to doing this when changing lanes or merging into the flow of freeway traffic - the driver's eyes and attention are diverted from the road ahead. And older drivers may have difficulty twisting to catch that quick glimpse.

      i agree with you, but nobody does it in this college town, they just come uver without looking. also, like the article points out, old people cant turn their necks. i
    • I do that and still have trouble seeing some people. They seem to like to line up with my door post and make if very difficult.

      My biggest driving grip is no one uses signals anymore (indicate for the british among us). They just hook their wheel violently into the other lane. I guess that they don't realize that 9 times out of 10, the person to the left or right will let you in if you signal, but I'll be damned if i'm going to let you in if you're not signalling.
    • Yeah, but they won't.

      As a motorcycle rider, I'd welcome anything that clues lazy drivers in to my whereabouts (if the raging engine and the bright light isn't enough of a hint).

      Some stupid fucks refuse to acknowledge my existence when I'm right beside the driver's window.. they need all the help they can get.
      • Tips from an old rider :

        Don't ride next to cars.
        Don't ride in a car's blind spot.
        Don't tailgate.
        For damn sure don't ride next or or in the blind spot of a bus or big rig.
        If somebody wants past you, let them.

        83 quadrillion miles of roads on the planet, most of which don't have a car in either direction for half a mile. In a pack of cars? Speed up or slow down until you are pretty much by yourself. Most of the time cars travel in herds, with lots of space between them. Get in that open space, and enjoy
    • The problem is, as it states in the article, you take your eyes off of what's in front of you when you look over your shoulder. If you only have to look as far as the side mirrors, you've at least still got your peripheral vision on the traffic in front. I admit this isn't necessarily something everyone needs, but assuming they'll eventually be at an affordable price, why not have them?
    • The other 50% of the time, it's the driver in another car who should be looking over his shoulder, and you have no way of compelling him to drive responsibly.

      And in fact, if this is designed correctly (which I'm skeptical about: for one thing the little light should be on when it's safe to merge rather than off, so you aren't lured into a false sense of security if it burns out) it could be helpful for responsible drivers, too. I know I certainly hate turning my head to look backwards while I'm driving fo
    • Or you could just check your mirrors and then look over your shoulder before changing lanes like they teach you to do in freakin driver's ed!

      Anecdote: A few months ago on a busy three-lane interstate highway and after checking and rechecking the middle lane to pass a slower car, I narrowly avoided a collision with a car who came flying around a car in the middle lane to the left lane and back into the middle lane as I was changing lanes.

      There are still instances where cars will drive diagonally from one
    • by w3svc_animal ( 629519 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:27PM (#8204613)
      Another idea is to mentally keep track of those cars which may be around you... sounds difficult, I know, but in practice it keeps you alert.
    • When I read the slashdot front page I was about to post the same thing.

      This overreliance on gadgets is not a particularly good thing. Some would say that the lowly side-view mirrors are too much technology for some people. They check their mirrors, and assume they are safe. My mother does this all the time. I refuse to ride with her in cities because that is where this becomes most dangerous, with cars weaving in and out of traffic. She simply refuses to look over her shoulder, believing the mirrors a

    • Rear-Ender (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blunte ( 183182 )
      In cities like Dallas, where average traffic speed on the freeway can be 75mph, looking over your shoulder can cost you dearly.

      It's almost a given that when you turn your head to look over your shoulder, the car in front of you will brake. By the time you look back, you probably don't have time to stop. Turning your head, refocusing, etc., takes way too much time at speed on a busy freeway.

      You're safer speeding up a bit and moving into an open spot (or creating one) in the next lane.
  • Do we need it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Don't we already have proximity sensors for that purpose?
  • by Stingr ( 701739 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:05PM (#8204244)
    I watch to much Star Trek. When I first read the blurb I thought it said "low power phaser array" and I thought "Man I gotta get me one of those."

    It would really come in handy during rush hour though.
  • Will it? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nick_danger ( 150058 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:05PM (#8204252)
    ...will this low-power radar system from the 1970's really help make driving safer?"

    Only if it jams cell phones in the process...

  • Convex Mirror (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sabrex15 ( 746201 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:06PM (#8204262)
    I was driving a while back, I have a little area above the mirror to set stuff in, I put my sunglasses up there and noticed that with the convex shape of the glasses, I was able to see all around the back of the car, now granted that distances were obscured b/c of the odd shape, but what about a convex rear-view mirror, which would allow for greater visibility? Simple solution, no fancy electronics.
    • by mattkime ( 8466 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:07PM (#8204288)
      Simple solution, no fancy electronics.

      Uh, you know where you are, right?

      • Re:Convex Mirror (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sabrex15 ( 746201 )
        yes yes i know where i am , but I tend to believe that when safety is concerned, the simpler the solution the better. The more you start to add-on/enhance to worse the situation gets. And while im thinking about it the same is true for a lot.
    • My Toyota Avensis has a convex left-side mirror; I must admit I'm now a junkie to this feature. Seems fairly standard across the market, in fact: I just didn't realise it until I graduated from a 205 and a Saxo...

      Well; at least phased array radar sounds like rocket science enough to be marketable :-)
    • Re:Convex Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

      There's one for sale here:
      Panoramic Rear View []
    • Just check out the auto parts store, I have seen convex mirrors there. I've always thought that they "look a little junky", but you might not be so inclined.
    • by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:22PM (#8204535)
      any auto parts store, hell even walmart or target, will sell little convex mirrors with adhesive on the back to stick on your mirrors. I have one and it works great, no blind spot... Once you get used to it you don't even have to turn your head to change lanes. Radar my ass....
    • Re:Convex Mirror (Score:3, Informative)

      by theycallmeB ( 606963 )
      Your car already has a convex mirror on the outside, opposite the driver. That is reason it has that "Warning: Objects ..." message printed on it. For the inside mirror, a convex surface would cause more confusion than the extra viewing area is worth. Espcially given that most of the extra area will be blocked by the door frames/pillars and people's heads. Given the current legal climate, lawsuits would undoubtedly result.

      You can buy add-on convex mirrors that stick-on to your existing exterior mirro
  • Safer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Davak ( 526912 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:06PM (#8204263) Homepage
    Yes, it will make it safer. Having a full power circular radar that locks and tracks all moving objects within 200 yd would make it safer still.

    We have multiple technologies such as this that will make driving a car much safer... the most important thing is making them cheap enough to be affordable and practical on vehicles.

    • Re:Safer? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Having a full power circular radar that locks and tracks all moving objects within 200 yd would make it safer still.

      Sure, if you don't count dramatically increased risk of cancer from sitting in gridlock every day, being painted by the full-power radar of every car within 200 yards as "unsafe."
    • Again ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Poligraf ( 146965 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:51PM (#8204983)

      What you and different "safety proponent" are saying is essentially "We can compensate better for the population's lack of skill and attention".
  • by costas ( 38724 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:06PM (#8204268) Homepage
    ... so the US-only percentage is probably disproportionately bigger than it should be; in the rest of the world cars have small and narrow blind spots and you can usually see behind the vehicle just fine.
  • ...Seeing as using headlights and turn signals are apparently optional in the State of Washington. Sorry to troll, but as an East-coast transplant here in rain city, I've been meaning to get that off my chest for a while.
    • At least the people in Seattle know how to merge properly. Take a drive north to Vancouver, BC and spend a morning in traffic. It's a real eye-opener.

    • Wait for the first person you see use a turn signal.

      Even odds the vehicle doesn't have Kentucky plates.

      [I'm originally from the DC area -- I lived in Lexington, KY for a couple of years. When I first got there, I was driving with some co-workers in my car, and I looked over my shoulder before changing lanes -- they asked me why I did that. I told them I was checking my blind spot. One of them asked me why I would have to do that.]
    • Dave Barry speaks many words of wisdom on this:
      If Miami motorists were to see a turn signal, there's no telling how they'd react. They could become alarmed and start shooting.

      Having seen that South Florida voters -- people who have yet to figure out how an automobile turn signal works -- were baffled by pieces of cardboard, our leaders decided to confront them with . . . computers!

  • by suman28 ( 558822 ) <> on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:06PM (#8204275)
    For this to help in any big way, it needs to come preinstalled in new cars. Even then, since, most people that have already bought/own cars may not be willing to get this extra feature, no matter how helpful it may be (see Navigation Systems), I wonder how many lives it will really save.
  • No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:07PM (#8204283) Journal
    This reminds me of a previous story where they said something along the lines of, "Now drivers no longer have to worry about blind spots, and can concentrate on driving"... It was in regards to some detection system built into the light poles along side highways.

    At what point does the driver get away with, well the beeper didn't sound, so I assumed there was no one beside me... I'm upset at how little people bother to actually pay attention when driving, and relying on some device to warn you if your manuever could potentially kill someone or be safe is just insane!

    Maybe I'm old fashioned, and maybe it's the fact I ride a bike in traffic, but I'm sick and tired of people not paying attention while driving, and this is not going to help, it'll make them even lazier...
    • by gidds ( 56397 ) <> on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:59PM (#8205155) Homepage
      Didn't I read somewhere of an experiment performed at an accident blackspot, where a remote rural road crossed a railway line? They cut down several trees near the junction to improve visibility, but this had an unexpected effect: instead of reducing accidents, people just didn't slow down as much. They concluded that drivers have an acceptable safety level, and drive to maintain that -- neither more dangerous, nor safer.

      In that light, I expect that in many cases, a system like this will simply cause drivers to pay less attention to the road around them, supposedly safe in the knowledge that the new-fangled system will keep them out of trouble. Which it might do in many cases; but all? And meanwhile, people are learning the lesson that safety is the car's responsibility, and not theirs...

  • Sure it would help (Score:2, Insightful)

    by frinkster ( 149158 )
    Yes of course an elimination of blind spots will reduce accidents. As long as the "data" is presented in an intelligent and non-distracting way to the driver.

    This won't eliminate this type of accident as a lot of people don't even look before changing lanes. Not much you can do about that...

    Though if the radar senses a vehicle to the side of you and is displaying to you that there is a vehicle to the side of you, it may include that data in the black box which may be used against you and label you as in
  • No. Nien. Nyet.

    It's not that hard to take a quick peek over your shoulder before you turn your signal on and merge. Most drivers around here don't even bother with the turn signal. Adding technology will not make inherently unsafe drivers [or the drivers around them] more safe.
    • Most drivers around here don't even bother with the turn signal.
      Or even look in most far as they know, they are the ONLY drivers on the road
  • Heads Up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sielwolf ( 246764 ) * on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:08PM (#8204300) Homepage Journal
    the system alerts the driver by lighting a warning icon on the outside rearview mirror for that side of the vehicle.

    I dunno. I actually think a lot of accidents are caused by lack of focus resulting in twisting and turning around too. Folks focused on the guy behind them not seeing that the car before them has its breaks on.

    I've always been of the mind that a HUD is the way to go: not only for this collision information, but for things usually hidden behind the steering wheel (tac, speed, fuel). I think the integration of radio controls into the steering wheel is a great step in keeping people focused where all the kinetic energy of the car is going.

    And, really, do you need to look at a rearview mirror if you have an icon before you saying "clear to left"?
    • Re:Heads Up (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RowdyReptile ( 660760 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:16PM (#8204441)
      the system alerts the driver by lighting a warning icon on the outside rearview mirror for that side of the vehicle.

      Like the turn signal I've seen on Ford Expeditions, etc.? If the warning icon is on the outside of the car, then it's got the added effect of being visible to other cars on the road. Someone else would know when they're in your blind spot because your mirror is warning them, too. Interesting.
  • I just wish people would use their goddamned side and rearview mirrors PROPERLY. If you set 'em up right, there ARE NO blindspots.

    American drivers, as a rule, suck. One more reason I want to live in germany.

    • Amen!

      If you're not lining up the inner edge of your drivers side mirror with the outer left edge of your inside center mirror, you're going to miss a lot of things... but if you do, there is no blind spot, no surprises, and life is good.


      • Inside mirror? oh, that thing pointing at back window. Too bad I drive a work truck with a solid topper. There is no way to adjust the inside mirror so I can see anything, sheet metal is good for keeping tools in, but not very good for letting me see.

        Overall I agree, when you have 3 mirrors in a standard car. Don't assume that a standard car is everyone. A lot of drivers cannot use that inside center mirror.

    • See, I used the mentality that if I go fast enough, I'll always be passing someone, and never have to worry about someone passing me, thus no need to worry about a blind spot...Hell, no need to worry about the rear-view mirror either...

      One day, I glanced in my rear-view mirror, and there were some flashing lights... I now no longer have a license, or a car... but hey, at least I was a safe driver (although the judge disagreed, hence the lack of driving privelages)... What's wrong with going 215 in a 100 zo
  • by ceo ( 6176 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:09PM (#8204304)
    if one of the things they taught in driving school was how to adjust your side mirrors properly.

    Most people have their side mirrors adjusted so as to point back down the side of the vehicle, which is not very useful. If you adjust them to point into the next lane over, you can completely eliminate the blind spot. A good way to set this up is to put your head against the side window and adjust the left mirror so that the side of the car is just barely visible, then align your head with the centerline of the car and do the same with the right mirror. With a little tweaking, you should be able to track passing cars on either side from the inside mirror to the side mirror to the side window without ever losing sight of them.
    • by steveg ( 55825 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:30PM (#8204651)
      They do teach this in professional driving schools (at least in some.)

      But it seems to give most people a warm fuzzy feeling to be able to see the back of their own vehicle in the side mirror. Dunno why, maybe they're afraid it'll just disappear one day and they might not notice without the mirror.

      You're right that it's not a very helpful thing to watch when you're in traffic though.
      • Driving Schools. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gosand ( 234100 )
        They do teach this in professional driving schools (at least in some.)

        I know they teach this in the BMW driving schools. At my first event, I remember seeing one guy adjusting his by having a buddy stand behind his car, and move from right to left. The guy in the driver's seat would adjust his mirrors so that when the guy behind appeared on the left edge of the rearview mirror, he also appeared on the right edge of the left side mirror. (and the opposite for the right side mirror)

        When you are on the

    • by jomegat ( 706411 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:47PM (#8204925)
      I read this tip in AAA magazine several years ago, and adopted the practice. It makes a huge difference. IIRC, the article indicated that this wouldn't eliminate the blind spot, but it would make it so small you couldn't hide a vehicle in it.

      Lately though, the auto industry has adopted an alternate tactic - instead of making the blind spots too small to hide a vehicle in, make the vehicles too big to hide in the blind spots.

  • by Devil Ducky ( 48672 ) <> on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:10PM (#8204319) Homepage
    How does the radar get your attention when it detects something?

    A noise? How will I hear that over my radio? Think how the clicking of a turn signal can go unnoticed for miles.

    A visual cue on the dash? But my head is turned looking for traffic, I won't see it. Again remember the blinking light of a turn signal.

    Will this cause people to not look before changing lanes, etc? Will they become completly reliant on the technology? Is that neccesarily a bad thing?

    One thing though, at $500 it's much cheaper than that rear looking camera that some new luxury cars have. And for those cameras to work you have to be looking at the little screen not behind you, or in front of you, or out the side window. Doesn't seem to help the situation there.
    • How does the radar get your attention when it detects something?...A noise?...A visual cue on the dash?

      When a car or truck comes close enough to be a potential problem, the system alerts the driver by lighting a warning icon on the outside rearview mirror for that side of the vehicle.
    • Noise? No...
      Lights? No...
      Electric shock?

      Now we're talking...

      Passenger: "Dude you need to be in the left lane"
      Driver: "Ok, let me just..."
      Driver (panting after extreme electrical shock): "Ok, maybe it isn't clear over there just yet..."

      Ok, and one more question... if you have this system, is that damn light going to be constantly on if you are in the right lane of a street where they allow curbside parking? That would be enough to get me to remove the bulb from the indicator.
  • WDDNS Radar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maclir ( 33773 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:12PM (#8204357) Journal
    Perhaps the effort would be better spend on:

    1) Proper driver education - skills and attitude

    2) Proper enforcement of driving laws

    3) Banning repeat offenders from driving - with jail for recalictrant people.

    Bottom line - quite a few people lack the necessary motor skills, intelligence, and attitude to be allowed on the road.
    • Re:WDDNS Radar (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      Obeying driving laws doesnt make you a safe driver.

      I submit that the old guy I saw this morning doing 35 mph along the highway, a 65 mph zone, in the center lane no less, was much more of a threat than the guy who passed me on the left hand side (and was obviously speeding since I was moving at or slightly over the limit). People were slamming on their brakes and swerving to get around him, etc..

      I do agree with you in principle. Rather than a $500 dollar doohickey that tells me when someone is in my bli
  • No (Score:5, Funny)

    by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:12PM (#8204360)
    What would make driving safer would be to require better qualifications and a different license class for 5'1" women to drive 12,000 pound, 20-foot trucks in parking lots designed for sedans and hatchbacks.

    What would make driving safer would be to require better qualifications and a different license class for 5'1" women to drive trucks with 400 horsepower engines which are utilized primarily to travel the two blocks from the bank to the grocery store at 75MPH, tailgating everyone else on the road all the way.

    That would be a start. Yeah, the radar might help too, but then again, perhaps there wouldn't be a ten-yard wide blind spot if a) the windows weren't five feet off the ground and b) if a more sensible vehicle size could be offered, like say, five tons instead of six.

    Just a thought.
    • Re:No (Score:3, Funny)

      by Casca ( 4032 )
      New Rule!
      You can only drive something you can push at least 10 feet on a smooth level surface, unless you take the type of course required to obtain a class C drivers license (or whatever it is that professional truck drivers have).

  • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:12PM (#8204373) Homepage Journal
    A test drive on crowded freeways near the Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters of Valeo Raytheon demonstrated the system's effectiveness. From behind the wheel of a Cadillac CTS fitted with the detection radar, it was easy to spot the small amber warning signal on each mirror as S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks whizzed past in adjacent lanes.

    Now, if they could set it up to be active only under certain situations, that would be good. I'd say, for starters, that it should be active whenever:
    1. You're in reverse
    2. You have your turn signal on
    3. You start to turn more than lane-centering at 30mph or more
    4. You're slower than 30mph
    But I'd be pretty annoyed at seeing lights flick on and off during normal highway driving. Maybe make it switchable - always/sometimes/never - as well.
  • Move the mirrors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ILikeRed ( 141848 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:13PM (#8204376) Journal
    In Japan, the side mirrors on not mounted by the doors, but by the headlights. This change of angle gets rid of the blindspot. Is it ugly? A little, but it works well.
  • by MightyTribble ( 126109 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:13PM (#8204382)
    ...and tied into the speedometer. I'd love something that made an alert tone when the car got too close to the vehicle in front (distance determined by speed, of course). Folks over here drive too close to each other at 80mph, it's no wonder that we have so many fender-benders in the fast lane of I-95.
    • You just described a stripped-down version of the adaptive cruise control that many fancier vehicles are now coming with. The only difference there is that they can automatically adjust the speed down, when appropriate, and then accelerate up when the annoying obstacle is out of the picture. Very nice for long highway drives, and your cruise speed becomes more of a "preferred speed" rather than an absolute. Incredibly nice when following someone who doesn't believe in constant velocity.
    • Catch-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blunte ( 183182 )
      If you leave a reasonable gap between you and the car in front of you, someone will slip in and fill that space.

      If you fall back to leave a gap between you and the new lead car, someone else will come fill that space.
  • From the article:
    "It would be like trying to get a suntan from a light-emitting diode," Mr. Remboski said. "It's just not going to happen."

    Now they tell me! Well at least now I know that adding those few hundred more LED's to my tanning panel wont help at all.
  • Radar Secret Service [] springs into action!
  • military technology (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theCat ( 36907 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:21PM (#8204523) Journal
    Back in the 70's (IIRC) there was a big stink about whether or not the US could deploy phased-array radar (PAR) to track incoming ICBMs from the USSR. There were all kinds of radar then, but the phased-array kind was considered destabilizing at a time when MAD was still the dominant military paradym. That is because PAR could accurately track thousands of targets, giving the targeted country an advantage that might cause them to actually strike first in the assumption that they could track and take out the retaliatory counter-strike.

    My oh my, but things were spooky back then. A good defense was considered a military advantage and harbinger of doom.

    I guess the Cold War really is over. Now you can have PAR in the back on your Beemer to track incoming Hondas. OK, so maybe this is still about first-strike initiatives and counter-attack defense. I won't be worried until the Beemers and H2s start to carry surface-to-surface missles.

    On a side note, "radar" used to be "RADAR" and was an acronym for something like "Radio Detection and Ranging". Funny how we co-opt technical terms and acronyms into the vernacular.
    • Back in the 1960's, the US in fact did deploy a phased array radar in Northwest Florida, the AN/FPS-85 [], and used it to track objects in space. In 1975, with a software upgrade, it took on the additional role of detecting Sea-Launch Ballistic Missiles. Being south-facing, the intent was to catch those coming from any Soviet subs that might be hiding south of Cuba.

      Additional phased array radars, AN/FPS-115 []'s, were built in California (Beale AFB) and Massachusetts (Otis AFB) expressly for the purpose of miss

  • I am completely withing my 2nd amendment rights to have bumper-mounted particle emitting arrays which exploit PHASed Energy Rectification. Driving safely means driving defensively, and a good offense is surely the best defense.
  • While we're at it, throwing technology at a simple matter of lining up the rear view mirror properly... let's see if we can kill privacy while we're at it. Let's require the radar transmit an ID signal to make it easier for the TIA (Total Information Awareness) folks to track us.

    Stop asking if we can, Start asking if we should.


  • by LynchMan ( 76200 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:22PM (#8204534)
    I always thought this technology would be great. But forget about displaying a warning on the rear-view mirror. It would be cool if it was hooked up to a HUD on the front windshield. So if someone is next to you, that side of your front windshield (only an inch or two) would be tinted/glowing red (transparent of course).

    Sure, it helps when changing lanes, but also when a ladder falls off of the truck in front of you and you have to make a spit second decision (no time to look up at your review) you can just turn away from the 'red'.

    And if both sides are read, just hit the brakes and hope for the best...
  • when i get in my car tonight i'm just gonna shove it in gear and let it go. when i caused a major accident i'm just gonna say i read an article online that my car would drive itself to where i wanted to go so i told it i wanted to go "home"
  • Before Allstate lowers Wil Wheaton's insurance rates, let me remind them that proximity detectors didn't help him avoid a catastrophe before and there's no reason to suspect he would be any safer now.

    I wonder if you can pull off a Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver with a small fleet of Buick Centuries?
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:26PM (#8204598) Journal
    With their radar emissions I'll finally be able to take out obnoxious drivers using my handy-dandy roof rack mounted HARM [] missiles.
  • State of the art (Score:3, Informative)

    by snopes ( 27370 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:27PM (#8204609) Journal
    will this low-power radar system from the 1970's really help make driving safer?

    Phased arrays are still state of the art for military radar targeting systems. They are unbelievably complicated systems when designed for highspeed target tracking and I'm sure whatever was used in the 70's doesn't even compare to what is used today. While modern naval warfare systems are not going to be employed in a car, I really doubt the tech implemented will totally lack the advances made since in the last >3 decades. This will be a damn cool gadget from a pure geek perspective.

    Like most tools, the effectiveness will depend on the user. Side view mirrors are highly effective, but in my experience most drivers have no idea how to use them correctly (using them to view the side of their vehicle rather than expanding the rear view provided by the center mirror).
  • will be one with a full "autopilot" with a big machette to chop your hands off if you try to touch anything.
  • There wouldn't be a need for side scanning radar if the automakers would stop building bigger and bigger vehicles!!
  • Between all the cell phones, wireless networks, remote controls, microwaves, Ghz phones, wireless mice and keyboards and now rader on cars, my sperm doesn't even stand a chance. Poor guys =(
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:37PM (#8204763)
    If you watch motorcyclists, they perform a shoulder check, a quick glance over their shoulder to check their blind spot before they make a maneuver. It's called a lifesaver because that's exactly what it does. It's saved my life several times.

    Most car drivers on the other hand are lazy, blind, incompetent morons who are safe in the knowledge that they have 2 tonnes of steel safety cage surrounding them, being completely safe they don't need to check their blind spots, too much like hard work. Radar will only increase the *impression* of safety and will otherwise be utterly irrelevant.

    What's needed are 5 year re-testable licenses like those the HGV drivers have to pass every few years.

  • by neurojab ( 15737 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:45PM (#8204902)
    How about... Putting the radar in the FRONT of the car, have a really annoying siren that goes off when the car is going over 50 MPH, and within 3 feet of someone else's rear bumper. The siren would be accompanied by a cell phone jamming signal, and the TV and radio would automatically go off as well. Additionally for the larger cars, a bulkhead would go up between the driver and the rear seats.

    This contraption would be mandatory for all trucks, SUVs, souped-up Japanese compacts, and Volvos.

    That would cause accidents to drop by about 90% in my estimation.
  • So, what if (Score:4, Funny)

    by Eudial ( 590661 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @03:52PM (#8205019)
    So, what if some bonehead parks a stealth bomber in the middle of the road?
  • by Lagged2Death ( 31596 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @04:04PM (#8205222)
    As "safer driving."

    Only faster, more insane driving.

    That's the way it always works. Make the lanes wider, and drivers speed up. Smooth out the hairpin curves, and drivers speed up. Install anti-lock brakes on most of the fleet, and drivers don't slow down for the rain any more. Put in better headlights, and drivers drive full-speed at night. People in general don't perceive driving as a dangerous activity (even though it's easily the most dangerous activity the average USian does on a regular basis) so they always go as fast as their comfort level - as opposed to their true safety level - allows.

    And a traffic-following radar will just mean that the cell-phone using right-lane passer doing 85 in his Escalade won't feel obliged to lift his right foot ever again.
  • by geekee ( 591277 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @08:40PM (#8208410)
    "will this low-power radar system from the 1970's really help make driving safer?"

    The reason this is being investigated now is that 24GHz and 77GHz systems are now feasible at a reasonable costs. Therefore, a phased-array antenna is small enough to put in a car bumper.

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.