All about blind-spot indicators

Drive Magazine

By Diana Faria

One safety feature that has made its way down from high-end brands to more affordable ones is blind-spot indicators.

These camera- or radar-based systems are installed on either the side mirror or the back of the vehicle. The radar or camera scans the driver’s right or left blind spot for movement on the road. If the driver indicates they are going to change lanes when a vehicle is detected in the blind spot, the car will flash a light on the appropriate side or make a noise.

Brian Spivak has been working in administration at Gyro Mazda in East York for about 20 years, but has been involved with Mazda since 1976. He currently drives a 2011 Mazda 6 and considers the blind-spot monitoring system installed in his vehicle “extremely helpful.”

“It’s one of those products that when I drive a car without it, I miss it.” He said.

Most Mazdas have this safety feature as an add-on, and is not integrated into their standard package. The system is offered with the 2013 Mazda 6 GT-14 luxury package, but is standard with their GT-V6, which starts at about $37,000.

However, Spivak said the 2014 Mazda 6 coming out next spring will have blind-spot indicators as part of its basic package.

Nissan Canada launched their blind spot indicator system in 2011 as an add-on to their vehicles. Their camera-based system is as an option in their 2013 Altima, which starts at $28,400. It’s a product Nissan Canada’s Tim Franklin says is a “rapidly growing popular feature”.

“We haven’t added it as standard equipment yet,” said Franklin, senior manager of product planning at Nissan and Infiniti Canada “[With] our Infiniti JX, which we just launched this year, so far we’ve tracked almost 50 per cent of our customers have chosen the model with the blind-spot warning.”

Both Spivak and Franklin believe the safety feature will become more and more common and will soon be installed in all vehicles.

“Twenty years ago we didn’t have to have right-hand mirrors. Twenty-five years ago we didn’t have to have seatbelts, and 15 years ago we didn’t have to have airbags,” Spivak said. “I think it’s one of those things that as technology advances, and it becomes less expensive (like any product)… it will be most likely become standard equipment.”

“We are working harder and harder on making it more affordable as technology ages,” Franklin said. “So this technology will be no different than CD players. At one point was $700 for a CD player in a car and now you basically can’t buy a car without one.”

The 2013 Altima has a camera mounted on the rear of the car. When the driver changes lanes and the system detects a vehicle, an indicator light blinks on the side the vehicle is detected and a chime sounds twice.

Blind-spot indicators are not yet a mandatory safety feature in Canada.

However, Transport Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette recalls when electronic stability control (ESC) was first introduced by manufacturers several years ago. ESC became increasingly popular within and Transport Canada made it mandatory in all vehicles in 2011 because it was deemed “useful and a good safety feature in vehicles.”

“ESC is an example where a manufacturer brought a technology forward [and] it was really helpful on the road and more and more manufacturers added that technology,” Durette said. “Blind-spot indicators, at this point, have not yet reached the wider range vehicles being manufactured in Canada.”

Nevertheless, Franklin suspects “acceptance will continue to go up” and Nissan will still offer it as an optional package for its vehicles.

“It’s a very nice feature,…I’ve got it on my minivan and we’ve come to really rely on it and enjoy having the feature,” Franklin said. “I do believe it will continue to grow and grow in popularity. Whether it will be standard equipment at one point, we’ll see.”

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