Tips from Used Car Advisor

Car Advisor Tamotsu Todoroki

Hi, this is Tamotsu Todoroki. I am a car advisor of
I write an online column every week to take care of your vehicle. My column is all about something useful and practical for your vehicle. Please have a look once to keep your car in good condition.


Blind Spot Monitoring - Vol.385

Driving is an almost hereditary trait. If a person is a first-generation driver in the family, he or she is likely to be greener in comparison (at least in the beginning). If your father or mother or both are a drivers, you are likely to be more comfortable when you first learn to drive.

When you first learn to drive, you are told to always look in the mirrors, and there are 3 of them. Look in the rear-view mirror for traffic in the back and the side-view mirrors for traffic to the side. There is a written warning on the side-view mirror that says: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." This is because the side-view mirror is designed to pick up as many objects as possible. However, since the mirror is so small compared to the size of the car, it will not pick up everything to the side, especially vehicles that are alongside your car.

What Are Blind Spots
Your blind spots when driving are the area on each side which is not visible in your side-view mirror. A person who has just learned to drive may remember that he or she should look in the side-view mirror and turn the head to make sure that the side is clear, but it is easy for the learner to get overwhelmed by so many things that are going on and neglect to turn or look in the side-view mirror. More often than not a driver had to experience a near collision with a vehicle in the blind spot for this driver to realize how critical it is to turn and scrutinize the blind spot. This usually would also result in a loud honk from the driver in the blind spot who was almost cut off.

A high-tech solution has been available for a decade and it is called blind spot monitoring.

What Is Blind Spot Monitoring
Blind spot monitoring is a system of sensors and alerts to notify you of objects in your blind spots when driving. The sensors are radar or sonar or optical sensors installed under the side-view mirrors and/or the rear quarter panels of your car. They can detect objects as big as a tunnel or as small as a bicyclist.

The alerts are usually illuminated in yellow on the corner of your side-view mirrors and/or the A-pillars of your car (A-pillars are the pillars between the windscreen and front windows). In addition to the visual alerts, some blind spot monitoring systems are also equipped with audible or tactile alerts or both.

The audible alert is a beep or series of beeps to let you know there are objects in your blind spots while the tactile alert is a simulated pulse on your steering wheel. Since it would be too annoying to beep and pulse all the time, most blind spot monitoring systems will only do so when your car's turn indicator is on, which would indicate that you have the intention to move out of your lane and potentially into the path of vehicles in your blind spot.

Other Names of Blind Spot Monitoring
Blind Spot Monitoring is the most straightforward name and it is used by Mazda, as in BSM. So other carmakers had to come up with other names. Actually, Volvo came up with the technology first and both Volvo and Ford use BLIS for Blind Spot Information System. Mitsubishi and Nissan/Infiniti call it Blind Spot Warning, GM chose Side Blind Zone Alert, Audi uses Side Assist, and so on and so forth. They all mean the same thing.

An awesome technology that came out of blind side monitoring is automatic parallel parking. You have to use the side-view mirrors a lot when you parallel park, so it is only natural for a car's blind side monitoring system to be used as the eyes of its automatic parallel parking system.

If your car is not equipped with blind side monitoring, there are aftermarket systems that you can consider purchasing and adding to your car. The quality differs greatly. Some are basic and cheap, others are more sophisticated and require professional installation.