The Faults of Blind Spot Monitors

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Blind spot warning systems (BSWs) detect vehicles adjacent to or behind your vehicle through the use of small cameras or ultrasonic sensors. When a radar sensor detects a vehicle in the blind spot, an indicator light will illuminate to alert the driver. Subsequently, should a driver be making a turn that may be unsafe due to other vehicles in blind spots, the BSWs will alert the driver using a chime that it is unsafe to merge or change lanes.

How Does a Blind Spot Monitor Function?

There are two main components to blind spot monitoring systems. First, the sensors act as the visual aid sensing the environment. Second, the driver is notified by an indicator that there is a potential danger. By using cameras, radar, and/or ultrasonic sensors, drivers will receive a visual and/or audible alert that there is potential danger in a blind spot. Some blind spot warning systems will go as far as showing the driver what is in the blind spot.

Some vehicles, such as certain Honda models, will display a visual image in the center screen of what the blind spot area looks like. This can be extremely helpful to drivers as they would not have to take their eyes off the road ahead to attempt to view the blind spots on the side or rear of the vehicle.

Other vehicles use different alert systems to aid the driver. When drivers activate a turn signal, some blind spot warning systems will give a tactile alert, such as shaking the steering wheel, to indicate that it is unsafe to merge or change lanes. This is known as Automatic Emergency Steering (BSW w/ AES).

Blind spot warning systems with automatic emergency steering will automatically steer and/or hit the brakes when a driver has activated a turn signal and is attempting to make a lane change while a vehicle is in the blind spot of an adjacent lane.

Can Blind Spot Warning Systems Prevent Crashes?

Research shows that blind spot warnings can prevent drivers from crashing into another vehicle that is driving in the same directions in an adjacent lane. Blind spot warning systems have been found to reduce the number of auto vehicle accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, blind-spot detection systems have decreased lane-change crashes by 14% and lane-change crashes leading to injuries saw a decrease of nearly 25%.

rear view

What are the Drawbacks?

While there are many benefits to blind spot warning systems and automatic emergency steering, there are some known drawbacks. Drawbacks will vary by vehicle, but some systems are not built to efficiently operate while the vehicle is driving at lower speeds. This means the system is limited in use or completely useless at lower speeds.

Another potential drawback is the visual warning light. The visual signal in some vehicles is a light located in the side-view mirror. The small light symbol may be difficult for a driver to see. Certain outside circumstances may make the light even more difficult to see, such as bright lights. Other vehicle models’ visual warning signal is a larger light located in a better viewing location, such as a windshield pillar or side-mirror mounts. The larger, better-located signals make it easier for drivers to be alerted to potential dangers regardless of outside circumstances such as lighting.

Additionally, as mentioned before, audible alerts are often only triggered when the driver has initiated a turn signal. The drawback with this autonomous intervention is that many drivers do not utilize turn signals at all. Thus, many drivers are ruling out the opportunity to be alerted audibly of hidden dangers due to the lack of use of turn signals which would trigger the warning signal itself.

Finally, while we are fortunate in Southern California to have consistent weather, our friends who travel to or reside in Northern California are not so lucky. Blind spot warning systems may be limited in use or completely dysfunctional if the embedded sensors are covered due to inclement weather, such as snow, ice, or mud.

Blind Spot Monitor FAQs

Can you install blind spot monitors?

Yes, if your car does not have blind spot sensors, the technology can be installed. While the accuracy of aftermarket installments tends to be slightly less than factory-installed technology, it is still worth taking into consideration. Adding the newer technology to an older vehicle can increase driving awareness, increase response time, and make both driver and passenger(s) feel safer.

How much does it cost to add blind spot monitoring?

Aftermarket blind spot warning systems vary in price. The most affordable systems cost $250 and below. Though cost-effective, these systems tend to be limited in functionality and accuracy. Systems in this price range include a few sensors and a very basic level of indicator technology. The midrange cost of blind spot monitoring systems cost between $250-$500. Systems in this price range have increased accuracy, but are still not as accurate as factory installed blind spot monitoring systems that are built into newer vehicles. Finally, the higher end blind spot monitoring systems cost $500 or more. These systems have the highest reliability and accuracy. The internal controls use advanced algorithms which reduce the likelihood of false triggers. Thus, sensor accuracy is high.

Are blind spot monitors worth it?

There is no simple answer to whether or not blind spot warning systems are worth it. The answer depends on a few different factors. One determinant factor is the size of the vehicle. Consumers who drive larger vehicles such as SUV, vans, or trucks, may benefit from the blind spot monitoring system to aid while parking or driving on the highway. Car visibility is a factor that should also be considered. Larger vehicles may be more difficult to drive, but may have larger windows and more room to be able to move about to see potential dangers approaching adjacently. Vehicles with larger blind spots will likely benefit from blind spot monitors. Finally, consumers who frequently drive with children may also find it more worthwhile to invest in a blind spot monitoring system for their vehicles as an added safety measure and extra layer of confidence when transporting precious cargo. Children can also sometimes be a distraction, so it is nice to have the backup support from the BSW.

Where are the blind spot sensors located?

Typically, blind spot sensors are located in the rear of the vehicle behind the rear bumper on each side. Other locations include in the tail light, in the quarter panel behind the bumper cover, or in the parking sensors.

What vehicles have the best blind spot warning systems?

According to consumer reports, the vehicles with the most satisfying blind spot monitoring systems were Genesis, Jeep, and Lexus. Also according to consumer reports, the vehicles with the least satisfying blind spot monitoring systems were BMW, Volkswagen, and Tesla. CR users tend to prefer systems with a bright warning light on the side mirror rather than a vague display.

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