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Monday, October 30, 2006

Company Unveils New Rearview-Mirror-Based Camera

Backing up cars,trucks and SUVs can be a dangerous task. Blind spots directly behind thevehicle can lead to accidents that result in property damage, or eveninjury or death to small children. To help reduce these risks, GentexCorp., the Zeeland, Michigan-based manufacturer of automatic-dimming rearview mirrors and commercial fire protection products, has developed a backup video display in an automatic-dimming rearview mirror.

Gentex's video display mirror consists of a proprietary liquid crystal display (LCD) device that shows a panoramic video view of objects behind a vehicle in real time. When the vehicle is put in "reverse," the display illuminates and automatically appears through the rearview mirror'sreflective surface to give a high resolution, bright-colored image.

The image is generated by a camera or cameras placed in a protected area at therear of the vehicle. When the vehicle is put in "drive," the display in themirror automatically disappears. The ability to automatically have thedisplay appear through the automatic-dimming mirror's surface is madepossible by utilizing proprietary "transflective" coatings developed byGentex Corp.

Many of the popular high volume vehicles today have high back windows which may also be tinted. "We're excited about this product from a safety perspective, as it should help reduce the risk of backup accidents for any vehicle, many ofwhich involve small children playing directly behind the vehicle," says Gentex Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fred Bauer. "It also may helpto prevent vehicular damage from backing up into objects that otherwise would go undetected by the driver."

Bauer says that the company also is excited by the convenience of the feature for attaching towable trailers for boats or RVs and utilitytrailers, since lining up the hitch ball to the trailer can be a challenge for even the most experienced driver.

"This makes it a piece of cake," says Bauer. "Adding to the impact isthe 'WOW effect' where the image magically appears and disappears at justthe right time. It's just plain cool and high tech!"

Gentex already has development programs in progress for its videodisplay mirror with several automakers. Toyota plans to show the mirror on a Tacoma this week at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) automotive show in Las Vegas, Nev.

"The rearview mirror is the ideal location for a backup display becauseit allows the driver to view the display and the mirror at the same time," says Bauer. "In addition, automakers like the display in the mirror becauseit's quick-to-market, easy to install and service, and relatively low costbecause it doesn't require them to retool dashboards or center consoles, ormake the additional significant investment in another LCD or other type of display."

Bauer says that the video display mirror is intended to be used as a supplemental device for drivers and does not eliminate the need to checkrearview mirrors or walk around the vehicle, should conditions warrant.


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