Ignorance is BLIS: Volvo develops blind spot warning system
By NATALIE NEFF?AUTOWEEK
An A-pillar signal light warns of vehicles in blind spots.
IN ITS NEVER-ENDING PURSUIT to build the world’s safest cars, Volvo has developed the Blind Spot Information System—BLIS, for short. The camera-based system signals the presence of a car in either side-rear blind spot by flashing an idiot light mounted on the corresponding A-pillar. The system debuts this fall on 2005 S60, V70 and XC70s; other models will likely follow.
The system uses a digital camera to “observe” an area 31 feet long by 9.8 feet wide on either rearward side of the vehicle by continuously snapping pictures at a rate of 25 clicks per second. By calculating the rate of change between pictures, BLIS can measure the location and speed of neighboring vehicles and warn of their presence.
However, because the system is camera-based, Volvo says it won’t work in situations including heavy fog or snow, or when traveling in excess of 12 mph faster or up to 43.5 mph slower than nearby vehicles. The system kicks on above 6.2 mph.
Though Volvo claims such a blind spot detection system is among the most asked-for features from drivers, we found a couple of BLIS’s characteristics questionable:
>>> While placement of the BLIS indicator light on the A-pillar seems reasonable and convenient, even the few inches it sits from the actual mirror (where your eyes should already have looked before changing lanes) requires a shift of concentration. We had to train our eyes to scan for the light—on top of automatically shifting focus between the front of the car to the rearview and side mirrors.
>>> Despite Volvo’s contrary claim, we found BLIS liked to signal for parked cars. Thankfully, you can shut BLIS off with a button in the center console.
That a system like BLIS has come to fruition—and that reportedly people have demonstrated a desire for it—forces us to ask: Why aren’t drivers setting mirrors better? And what happened to the good ol’ fashioned head-check?
Because ignorance, we surmise, is bliss. Or BLIS.