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back to article Top-end Fords will be watching your rear

Ford will offer blind-spot-checking radar using part of the 24GHz spectrum on US models starting early next year, though cheapskates might opt for the wing mirror with a bent corner instead. Both options will be available, with the modified "Blind Spot Mirror" being a standard feature on Lincoln and Mercury models. Ford claims …

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Serve chilled

There is no substitute for looking out of the windows, keeping an eye on the mirrors, knowing the size of your car and generally being aware of what's going on. This will just make people take more risks like seat belts and better brakes did.

If you wanted to make cars really safe you'd sit the driver in a glass box sticking out of the front of the car.

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Anonymous Coward

Old news

Far as I know, this has been an optional feature from several mfgrs. for at least a year.

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Easier solution

Ford could have saved quite a lot of the money that they spent on developing this by simply refusing to sell Ford cars to old giffers.

Problem solved, then all the old bastards need to crane their necks for is to see whether the bus approaching is the number 66 or not.

In honesty though, if people find it a chore to crane the neck to see if a vehicle is approaching, we should be asking why they are allowed to drive cars in the first place - if they have trouble turning their heads, they potentially will have trouble seeing a little orange light on the wing mirror as well...

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Alert

if...

"If you wanted to make cars really safe you'd sit the driver in a glass box sticking out of the front of the car"

... and mount a large spike on the end of the steering column pointing at the driver.

Tell us, oh Oval of Blueness, what happens when the blind spot system goes wrong?

"Ah, no orange light, it's OK to pull ou..."

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Paris Hilton

Not sure why people are against this

Number one cause of accidents beyond stupidity (tailgaiting etc) is crap observation. Very easy for someone to get lazy after 3 or 4 mind numbing hours on a motorway and neglect to check a blind spot. A little light can only be a good thing. The danger is if people start to use it as an alternative to checking their blind spot, so the actual implementation of the technology will be key.

@Serve Chilled.

Drivers out front in a glass box, might not be a bad way of teaching persistent bad dribvers to drive. Stick em on a skid pan somewhere with that kind of setup and let em go at it, great educational tool. And no I don't mean speeders, I mean bad drivers. Would you tailgate in a glass car?

Paris always checks her blind spot, might be a bloke she wants there.

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What will the radar NOT see?

Do pedestrians show up? Bicycles?

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Coat

@Easier solution

Those "old giffers" are probably Ford's #1 buyer! Over here in the States, our geezers like to drive huge tanks like Lincolns and Mercuries (I think it makes them feel safer or something) - Ford's got enough problems without losing their #1 customer :p

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Unsafe feature.

old farts in mercury or lincoln don't even bother to check their mirrors, especially in Florida, where you stop every time you spot a brown, tan, burgundy or maroon aforementioned car make coming your way, and overtaking them is an art.

They can't see a car, mind you a blinky amber tiny light in the mirror they don't check.

And now they say they feel more confident ... ooooh

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Pirate

Missed the point

ford have missed the point here, those same doddery old gits wont be able to see the flashing light, or hear the audible alarm anyway.

Wonder how this device will deal with Motorcycles, or are they just too small to see like pedestrians... heres comes a new wave of biker killing lane changers!

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Flame

Will this help any

<rant>

Judging by the standard of driving in Cornwall

Almost every day the following happens....

1. Some idiot pulls out when it's not their right of way

2. Some OLD tw@s can't see me (must be my small car)

3. Same OLD tw@s weave all over the road

4. NO-ONE in Cornwall can drive if there is snow/ice/water etc

5. Cornish drivers DO NOT know how to use indicators

6. Young drivers are driving way too powerful cars (I guess they didn't inform the insurance of the mods)

7. Lack of required maintenance of a vehicle

8. OLD tw@s parking on road junctions (to do their shopping)

9. We have narrow roads in Cornwall, PULL THE FU*K OVER YOU IDIOTS

10. Using mobile phones while driving (EVEN THE OLD tw@s)

11. Women drivers doing their makup (as if is would make a difference) Ugly Cornish wenches

12. Women drivers cleaning the windscreen on the A30 at 70MPH

13. Unrestrained children standing on the rear seat

14. Unrestrained children laying in the bloody boot

15. Mothers feeding children on their laps, at 50 MPH, someone else driving

16. Cars designed for 5 people having 8 to 10 in them

17. Old tw@s not being able to understand what a roundabout is used for

18. Idiots flashing their lights at you for no apparent reason

19. Old tw@s pulling up if you get to within 200 feet of them to let you pass !!!

20. The complete idiot with his Laptop on top of the dashboard trying to negotiate major roadworks and hitting about 50 cones!!!

I give up

Our life insurance has been increased because I think that there are too many idiots on our roads.

</rant>

BTW I drive a huge Ford Galaxy in metalic blue, which can't be missed unless your blind.

Any "Cornish" tw@s reading this, Get your ass to an advanced driving course ASAP

When I get the oppertunity I'll quite happily drive into any one of you that thinks they own the road !!!!!!!!!

Stuff Radar, the Cornish need basic training/road skills first

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Over my shoulder goes one car(e)

I would bet that Ford will deny legal responsibility when you nerff that vehicle the little light failed to see.

Will it discriminate down to a cyclist or walking pedestrian as you pull out?

Look over your chuffin' shoulder and drive properly. Sheesh! Goddam Yankies

@Carl you got it... Don't drive if you are a stiff neck!

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Coat

Agree with Ferry Boat

"If you wanted to make cars really safe you'd sit the driver in a glass box sticking out of the front of the car."

...with a big pointy metal spike sticking out of the steering wheel instead of an airbag.

Mine's the bouncy Michelin-man one.

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Ash
Stop

Motorcycle training

When doing the Compulsory Basic Training (for non-UK readers, I passed this even after running a red light at a pedestrian crossing), they teach you a manouver called a "life-saver". You're supposed to look over the shoulder on the side you're going to turn just before making the turn. The idea is you look out for motorcycles, cyclists, cars overtaking like idiots etc. so you end up saving lives.

Why don't they teach car drivers this? It's the same thing.

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Stop

Audi

Isn't this what Audi are advertising on TV in the UK right now ?

Ford, being a US company, will be patenting this even if the Germans invented it no doubt, thanks to the lunacy of US Patent law.

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Flame

Just the thing you need...

...to distract you in heavy traffic. If you cannot use the rear and wing mirrors properly, you should NOT be driving !!

@Carl - better yet, Ford should stop selling gas-guzzlers !! That should reduce the number of large (over-sized) vehicles on the road and let the little nippier (pun intended) ones to run around in greater safety !!

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Silver badge

Graham's Three Rules for Defensive Riding:

1) Don't assume they've seen you.

2) Don't assume they'll respect your right of way.

3) Do assume they'll do something that will kill you unless *you* get out of their way!

It shouldn't be that way, but that's the way it is and that's why around 2/3rds of accidents involving motorbikes and other vehicles are deemed to be the fault of the *other* vehicle.

Perhaps if the radar system was modified to include a cattle prod in the driver's seat which is triggered if they attempt to perform a manoeuvre when someone is in their blind spot it would encourage cagers (car drivers) to undertake better observation in the first place.

For more details, see Devon County's Road Safety film.

<http://www.livevideo.com/video/Maxxi/A9B1542C39734363B201EA817A81DB7D/a-day-out-in-devon-motorcycl.aspx>

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Ash

I'm currently doing driving lessons (I'm a late starter- always been somewhere small enough to walk/cycle or at a stretch take a bus) and my instructor does teach this. So it is filtering down- albeit slowly- to the quadricycle classes.

And yeah, if you can't use a mirror what the hell are you doing driving?! Especially in the US since they have rather larger cars with [I believe] less safety features (for victims as well as drivers)?!

There really should be a 5-yearly retest on the driving license. Or at least a "check up"- drive about, see if there are any weaknesses or glaring bad habits, and if there are any major problems (i.e. physically incapable of using the mirrors and no adaptations to aid in their use) then sorry- your license is revoked.

I can't help but think that this will vastly increase the complacency of drivers. Especially older ones who recognise that they're getting a bit dithery and think of it as a cure-all for a bad neck.

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Anonymous Coward

A Volvo invention perhaps (although a Ford brand...)

28th Nov 2005:

http://media.ford.com/newsroom/feature_display.cfm?release=22037

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@Audi

It's a feature Volvo developed (who else?) and thus Ford as the parent company have been able to use it.

Obviously if people relied on it 100% as a replacement for proper observation it'd be dangerous; as a "backup" (and who doesn't have the odd lapse of concentration now and again?) it's a good thing.

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Stop

design principle:

redundant, multi-modal information presentation = higher chance of information being received

which is why the sign I'm using as an icon doesn't just say "stop" on it but is also a specific shape and color. so that if I only notice the word, or only notice the shape, or only notice the color, I still know it's a stop sign.

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Better idea

Just tell people how to set their mirrors properly. It only needs to be done once, and if done right your blind spot is small to non-existent.

It makes more sense on box trucks and such, but they'd be better served by actual cameras, not blinking lights.

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I wonder if...

it will be as good as the IR reversing detectors that I have. They warn of ice on the detectors, large rain drops on the detectors, heavy dirt on the detectors, thick fog, heavy rain and the ground when reversing down a slope

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New patent

I should patent a curved mirror that reduces blind spots. Until that's on the market, I expect lots of people to be slaughtered by incapable drivers in cars made by a company not known for reliable electronics.

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Happy

Don't Knock It Until You Try It

For those of you who are perfect drivers, you can stop reading. For those of you who wouldn't mind the extra assistance to safer driving, you should consider it. I check my mirrors constantly, and always signal lane changes. I also worked on these systems. I love the blind spot sensor. I don't like driving without it. It's not perfect (nothing in your car is perfect, even airbags, and I worked on those, too), but it works very well. (However, each manufacturer has their own specifications, so performance will vary OEM to OEM.)

If it's available in a car you're considering, I would recommend getting it. Besides, it keeps food on my table.

Also, consider adjusting your mirrors. Most people do not adjust their mirrors to look at the blind spot zone. If you can see your own car in the side mirrors, they are not properly adjusted.

Volvo was the first to come out with these, but it was camera-based. The Audi Q7's is radar-based, but has a slightly different purpose (lane change assist). GM has had them out for about a year now. I think they have the same supplier as Ford. Mazda has had a system in one of their vehicles as well.

And yes, the legal-ese in the owner's manual is 3-5 times longer than the actual description of the systems.

No, we don't need all of these driver assistance systems in our cars. But then again, we don't need 50-inch LCD TVs, quad-processor computers, or terabyte+ raid setup for home use. Well, except for pr0n, of course.

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Bronze badge

Short term use, then move to 76ghz ?

Presumably they have solved the potential problems with interference to fixed radio links that operate at that frequency ?

Not to mention the various speed detecting devices that also operate there, and the allocation for astronomy and earth satellite services ?

"Short range automotive radar (21.5 to 26.5 GHz)

Ofcom has several concerns about this application.

According to the ITU Radio Regulations the band 23.6 to 24.0 GHz is a passive band (used for radio astronomy and earth exploration satellite service) and is covered by footnote 5.340(-21-) which states "All emissions are prohibited" in the stated bands, which includes 23.6 to 24 GHz.

The second concern relates to the protection of the Fixed Link service operating above and below 24 GHz. An independent study commissioned by Ofcom (as RA) indicated that there is a potential risk of interference to the Fixed Link assignments, under certain conditions, therefore again Ofcom does not support the use of short range automotive radar in the bands used for fixed links.

The radio amateur service also has an allocation in the 24 GHz band for which compatibility has yet to be studied.

In addition to the above, the police also have an allocation around 24GHz which is used for speed meter cameras and speed guns. Before the short range automotive radar could be permitted in this band, the automotive radar manufacturers are required to demonstrate that there is no risk of interference to the speed radars which could bring the evidence and hence convictions into question"

and:

"Many of the results presented in this report indicate that aggregate interference levels are of the order of 10 dB above the fixed link receiver thermal noise level. The ITU-R interference criterion requires the interference level be of the order of 20 dB below the fixed link receiver thermal noise floor in order to satisfy a low level of increase in fixed link unavailability. In order to facilitate sharing, it will clearly be necessary to reduce the 30 dB discrepancy. Given the magnitude of the discrepancy, it seems unlikely that any of the mitigation factors identified above will close the gap sufficiently by themselves."

from: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/ra/topics/research/topics/uwb/3gfinalreport.zip

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Black Helicopters

Coincidence?

So is it a coincidence that both the article and comments page have an advert for VW?

Different perspective: if you're overtaking one of these cars and see a little flashing light in their mirror, you can be sure that the crap driver hasn't seen you (because now they have this gadget, they don't have to think) and thus can take the appropriate evasive action.

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Go

Safety = Risk

When ever you make something safer it means you can take more risk. Or it means you compensate and keep the risk the same. Good brakes mean later braking. Good handling mean faster cornering. This radar will mean faster pulling out because less observation is required.

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Anonymous Coward

How about oncomming traffic?

Every time a car pass you on standard road they will pass through your blindspot and trigger a flash

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Economy

The reason these innovations are useful is actually fuel economy. Car manufacturers used to do Cd testing without mirrors, back when one mirror was acceptable. No mirrors=less drag, smaller mirrors=slightly less drag, and we're already seeing smaller mirrors on many cars. The original Mercedes A-class has pitifully small mirrors.

Mercedes also used to fit a "shorter" mirror to the NS.

And yes, Volvo tech, not Ford. Ford's acquisition of Volvo has done a lot for improving the quality and features on Ford cars.

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Joe
Paris Hilton

@Audi @AC @AJ

My 2004 Saab 9-3 has the silly blindspot mirror on the passenger side.

Paris - 'cuz she wouln't know a blind spot from a g . . . never mind.

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Alert

Can I have...

The military version - radar guided target acquisition for high output tight beam microwave emitters & EM pulse generators (like the PFY's "pinch"), and a visible laser projector that will show the following message in the mirror of the car or van (esp. Merc. Sprinter) in front of me :- "FIX YOUR **** BRAKE LIGHTS".

But seriously, many HGV's have the sign "If you can't see my mirrors, then I can't see you!", I tend to work on the principle that "Just because I can see your mirrors doesn't mean that you've seen me!".

After all in the UK we have more road signs per mile than anywhere else - information overload for the driver - are you going to be able to pay attention to the vehicle in front of you, the one behind you, the ones on each side of you, the ones coming towards you, the pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists AND still read/understand the sign that says you're now in a bus lane and going to get a hefty fine because it's half-past next Wednesday in the second week of an odd month.

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Alien

Larger blind spots

A couple of years ago we went to get a "new" car for my wife (always a good trade), planning to get a small runabout a couple of years old.

EVERY model we looked at, from a Fiat to a Mercedes A-Class, had terrible rear visibility due to a combination of high waist lines, tiny windows, bulky pillars - and badly sited mirrors.

When I remarked on this to salesmen, they didn't seem to understand my complaint - "that's how cars are designed nowadays sire".

In the end we bought a 5 year old car with good all round visibility, and hope that the design pendulum swings back before we have to replace it.

In other words, this is an expensive gadget whose sole purpose is to attempt to compensate for the initial bad design of the vehicle.

The alien looks to have a good field of vision.

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Alternative suggestion

Instead of an orange light, they should allow us to wire 24v to the genitalia of these unobservant idiots. Then when there is something in their blind spot that they haven't bothered to check for at least they'll get a wakeup call.

Might not help, but it would go a long way to making me feel better after I install a swinging thread in front of the sensor.

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Pirate

Detecting motorcycles

My biggest worry with the radar system is if it properly detects motorcycles as well as cars. If it doesn't detect people, then is it likely to detect a bike which is a similar width when seen front on. I've had enough problems in the past with the detection strips in the road not detecting my bike (an R6 so not exactly small), that I imagine the radar not spotting me either.

It's bad enough with many car drivers not thinking about their blind spots to consider if there is a bike there, but with this system they're more likely to assume that there's nothing in their blind spot because the system says so, and go ahead and pull out regardless.

That said, personally when passing cars on the motorway etc I always work on the assumption that the drive won't check their blind spot anyway, which limits the danger this system poses!

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@Simon Dummett

"... and mount a large spike on the end of the steering column pointing at the driver."

Someone's been reading Clarkson... :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Volvo BLIS...

Yes, Volvo made it - yes it was camera based originally, and called BLIS (BLindspot Indicator System). It goes with their other huge list of anacronyms (SIPS, WHIPS, STC, DSTC, D4C etc)

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Stop

Warning lights and control systems

This system sounds quite advanced, compared to systems in current passenger car use. Let us hope it is for the benefit of all road users.

For people wondering, these sort of systems are designed to detect pedestrians, cyclists etc. Whether the driver reacts in a timely fashion to any warning signal is another matter.

Talking specifically now about side blind spots, when changing lane.... When one looks over one's shoulder, there is no mental commitment to make a movement until the check has been done. If one comes to rely instead on an automatic warning of some kind, the order can become changed with laziness so that the movement comes first, -with the possible option of steering back the other way if a warning signal occurs.

There are many influences which 'compete' for a driver's attention these days -road layout, signs, in-car gadgets (which manufacturers have control of), extra gadgets, which are not part of the car (beyond the manufacturers control), other passengers in the car. The list goes on... My point is that many modern cars are starting to nag or even bully drivers into using the car in a particular way. In some senses, the mental contract that the driver is solely in control is now partly broken, since the drivers are forced to use the car in a particular way.

Yes, you can switch off that reversing sensor, but you have to do it each time you engage reverse -in practice, people eventually submit and put up with the beeping noise. Then their behaviour adapts to rely on the sensor.

Speaking specifically about camera-based side-mirror blindspot warning devices (as are used on some cars today)... These are not so reliable. Their basic problem is that fact that they give numerous false positives. The result is that a warning light, close to the side mirror flashes -often. A radar sensor could reduce the number of false positives which camera-based sensors suffer from.

Some currently manufactured cars have a radar-based system mounted in the front grille. This system is used to adjust the cruise control system on motorways. it is also used in connection with the braking system. In an emergency, it may start braking before the driver even has time to press the brake pedal. It may also press the brakes harder if the car is not slowing down fast enough, to avoid a colission. (In many motorway accidents, a collision occurs even though there was plenty of time available for the driver and car to stop -quite often, people do not press the brake pedal hard enough).

As more automatic systems appear, we will see some interesting and unanticipated consequences. People who design safety systems in cars are not always aware of the concept of risk compensation. They have to do a balancing act between making drivers feel safe (and possibly inducing complacency) or making drivers feel less safe and possibly loosing customers to a company that does make customers feel safe.

For anyone interested in finding out more about risk compensation, I should say that it evokes quite strong feelings in the people discussing it. This often results in hysterical debate involving poorly designed studies and very dubious use/abuse of statistics. It is difficult to find a single website with sensible discussion of it. Look at Wikipedia if you wish, but as always, if you want to study something, do check plenty of other sources too.

I imagine it is part of a wider question of how much risk people are prepared to tolerate and the battle for who controls the level of risk they are exposed to -themselves or someone else/some others. -Though that is a highly personal opinion of mine.

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It's all about passive safety

Hmm, Yes, Very constructive suggesting 24v to the privates, inconsiderate drivers, etc.

But this is actually something which has some relevance to the real world, not the solipsistic variety most people inhabit on the road. Drivers may indeed have blind spots to check, but how many of the people making these comments have actually driven a modern car /whilst in the habit of checking blind spots/?

I do it habitually. Modern cars are awful, because they're designed to score highly on crashing into solid objects, not avoiding the crash. A pillars on everything I've driven since around 2004 MY have been massively thick and obtrusive. Rear pillars are practically wall-like (anyone seen the trend for arched windows in a square, leaving a huge solid area? See Megane, Rodius, CR-V).

And B-pillars are not there to provide something for the door to attach to. They're there to protect the passengers. Turn your head to check the side, and your view is obstructed by something nearly as wide as yourself and deep enough that from a 3D POV, it obscures most of the rear window too.

I don't agree with the tech, but I think people are too quick to blame and whine without actually thinking about how things work from other people's perspectives.

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Flame

Bad Design upon Worse Design

If you drive a BMW or Merc you don't have blind spots - they designed their mirrors to eliminate them!! Typical Ford el cheapo rubbish has massive blind spots caused by disgusting design of their mirrors - but if you are dumb enough to buy a Ford then you will be dumb enough to buy unnecessary blind spot radar as well.

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Boffin

Y'know, I have these wonderful things...

... Called blind spot eliminator mirrors. They cost 5 AUD. They are a small curved mirror that sits in the corner of your wing mirror and completely eliminates the blind spot. Problem Solvered.

I drive a small hatchback and I've never failed to check my blind spot manually, even though my blind spot is almost non-existant.

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@Anonymouse

"But seriously, many HGV's have the sign "If you can't see my mirrors, then I can't see you!","

I use to like that sign... for about 3 minutes - just long enough to dawn on my that it should read "if you can't see my mirrors, I am driving a badly-designed vehicle which should not be on the road".

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Coat

VAXhall Zafira?

And there was me thinking that a Vaxhall was an old-skool data centre.

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Alert

Audi

This has been available on some Audi models for some time, very useful I'm sure BUT the use of indicators which are already fitted as standard to all cars but rarely used would be safer.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry John Murgatroyd your wrong

Ofcom has no concerns about these and has already licence exempted the use of these radars in the 24GHz band a few years ago. They recently updated the legislation last year http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/srr/summary/ . The European Commission told all member states to allow the use of these devices in the 24 GHz band.

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Stop

This does relie on.........

The driver actually looking in the mirror!.

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@Paul Young

Please stay in Cornwall.

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Unhappy

Bikers

As another biker I am concerned that if it's detection rate on bikes is any less than 100% then there's going to be trouble. I know of a traffic light system that only goes green if there is traffic waiting, fair enough as it gives priority to a dual carriageway, but it only detects me half the time and I have to jump red lights!

This is just going to encourage people not to bother to look and we'll get a new excuse, sorry mate my radar didn't see you!

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Gold badge
Unhappy

Bloody marvellous.

Now when following a Ford I won't only need dark glasses ('cos every Ford ever made drives around with its fog lamps continually lit) and, if it's a Focarse, a crystal ball ('cos the brake lights are positioned above yer natural line-of-sight if you're driving anything lower than a LandRover), I'll need a bleedin' tinfoil hat as well!

I've often wondered if Ford deliberately design cars to attract being thumped firmly up the arse so they get to sell replacements to insurance companies......

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Happy

Is it me?

or is it the case that people who choose big cars "because they're safer" are generally the ones who drive so badly that they shouldn't be on the road in the first place?

Take Volvo drivers and indicators, as an example. If you ever see a Volvo indicating (which is rare enough), you can almost guarantee that the driver will be turning the opposite way to that indicated.

Waiting for the first person to go mad from the blinking lights when stuck in a 2-hour traffic jam.

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Stop

My invisible car and its great feature....

I am the proud owner of a 2004 Vauxhall Corsa and although it seems to have some kind of invisibility to the drivers of any expensive German or Scandinavian marque (the SAAB coming at me on my side of the road on the way into Bristol this morning caused me some concern) it did come out of the facory with an amazing feature..... slightly convex wing mirrors... amazing! No "expensive to replace when white van man takes it off radar or blinky light". I can see not only what is behind me, but also what is in my blind spots.

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