We’re constantly excited when we hear about young girls becoming involved in STEM — science, engineering, technology and math — since those areas still struggle with all the underrepresentation of girls. Add within our enthusiasm for automobiles, and it gets fairly easy to see why we are so pumped for 14-year old Alaina Gassler along with her homebrewed blind spot discount program. Alaina’s program utilizes a webcam, a projector, a 3D printed adapter plus a few retroreflective cloth to create a car’s A-pillar effectively undetectable. Why is that useful? Well, as automobiles are subject to increasingly more and stricter rollover protection regulations, their A-columns (the pillars that surround the windshield and also help hold up the roof ) are becoming thicker, reducing visibility. What Alaina’s system doesn’t take the picture from a webcam mounted onto the outside of the car and sends it into some little projector mounted close to the sunroof from the car’s inside that projects the movie on the A-pillar, that has been coated in retroreflective cloth to make the picture clearer.
The system isn’t entirely reminiscent of a patent application filed by Hyundai back in October of 2018. That system was much more complicated though, relying on specially shaped screens to display the images. Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover also worked on invisible A-pillar tech, but this middle-schooler from Pennsylvania seems to have figured out the cheapest way yet to make it work. Gassler’s use of retroreflective fabric is ingenious. Unlike a traditional reflective material that bounces light all different directions, a retroreflective bounces light directly back at its source. It’s not terribly expensive, and the technology behind it isn’t new — it’s common on safety gear for cyclists and motorcyclists — yet its use here helps reduce glare out of that the projector for vehicle occupants. Alaina’s blind-spot tech was good enough to win her the top prize — a $25,000 gift from Henry Samueli, chairman of the board of Broadcom and his wife, Susan Samueli, president of the Samueli Foundation — at the Broadcom MASTERS event, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday. We can only hope which Alaina’s success gets automotive manufacturers paying attention along with that she can help inspire more young women to get involved in STEM fields.
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