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More mainstream vehicles getting blind-spot monitoring systems

Carmakers are building convex mirrors into the outer upper corner of a vehicle’s side mirrors in more and more models.

LYRA SOLOCHEK | Times

Carmakers are building convex mirrors into the outer upper corner of a vehicle’s side mirrors in more and more models.

DETROIT — Lisa Suida doesn't twist her torso or turn her neck anymore to check her blind spot while driving her 2010 Chevrolet Traverse. • Instead, Suida, of Macomb Township, Mich., checks the small convex mirrors built into her car's side mirrors, which show her when a vehicle is driving in her blind spot.

"I feel more secure in traffic knowing who's around me," said Suida, 36, who has two kids.

Drivers who are in the market for a new car soon may look forward to blind-spot-free driving. Automakers are increasingly adding features — simple and high-tech — to uncover blind spots that are responsible for an estimated 395,000 crashes a year.

Blind-spot monitoring systems, which use sensors to detect when something is in a vehicle's blind spot, are expanding from luxury and top-trim levels to mainstream vehicles.

Less-expensive convex mirrors, which are built into the outer upper corner of a vehicle's side mirrors, allow automakers to bring blind-spot-free driving to more-affordable cars and trucks. The convex mirrors cost about $10 to $15 per vehicle.

Ford, for example, committed to making them standard on most new models.

The move is part of Ford's push to spread technology across its lineup. Or, as Ford product planning engineer Kelly Kohlstrand said, taking technology that was unaffordable and "making sure customers have it at hand whether they're driving a Fiesta or driving (a Lincoln) MKS."

The radar-based blind-spot monitoring feature alerts the driver that a car has moved into its blind spot, usually with an icon that lights up in the side mirror.

"It's looking to the side and to the rear of the vehicle," said John Capp, General Motors' director of global active safety and safety innovation.

GM features radar systems as an option on several vehicles, including the Cadillac Escalade and Buick LaCrosse.

"We're looking to put it on more vehicles," Capp said.

The radar-based system alone costs about $250 and is often packaged with other safety features such as rearview cameras.

Blind-spot detection is becoming a more popular feature among consumers. Of more than 42,000 new car buyers polled by AutoPacific this year, 40 percent said they want radar-based blind-spot detection. That's up from 33 percent in 2009.

But high-tech may not always be better.

Another study by AutoPacific, commissioned by auto supplier Magna International — which makes both types of blind-spot systems — showed that of 967 drivers who tried both features in a demonstration, 69 percent preferred the less-expensive convex mirror over the more-expensive radar-based system.

"If you haven't had them before, you instantly appreciate them," said Bob Wheat, general sales manager at Village Ford Dearborn, about convex mirrors.

Stick-on convex mirrors are available at aftermarket parts shops and cost just a few dollars for a pair. But factory-installed versions offer a tailored view of a blind spot, Kohlstrand said.

More mainstream vehicles getting blind-spot monitoring systems 08/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 4:30am]
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