SOURCE: Gentex Corporation

August 29, 2007 16:02 ET

Lack of Driver Awareness and Rear Blind Spots May Make Backing Up a Dangerous Activity

ZEELAND, MI--(Marketwire - August 29, 2007) - Even though most drivers consider backing up a "dangerous activity" and over half have experienced either a backup accident or "close call," few drivers actually take the time to walk behind their vehicle to check for potential obstacles. In fact, nearly 60% said they "rarely" or "never" look behind their vehicle before backing up. These findings are from a research study conducted by The Planning Edge, Inc., an independent research and analysis firm based in Birmingham, Michigan.

This apparent lack of driver attentiveness, combined with the large rear blind spots associated with many of today's vehicles, are the primary contributors to millions of dollars in property damage accidents, thousands of injuries and nearly 200 backover fatalities annually. In response, automakers are increasingly offering "backup assist" features in the form of sensor-based audio and/or visual alerts and rear camera display (RCD) systems.

Rear camera systems enable drivers to see real-time video images of the area behind the vehicle while backing up. A typical system has a video camera located at the rear of the vehicle and a display located in the center console or instrument panel (usually as part of a navigation system) or in the rearview mirror.

The Planning Edge research, commissioned by Gentex Corporation, the leading supplier of automatic-dimming rearview mirrors to the worldwide automotive industry, was conducted nationwide with current owners of 2005-2007 model vehicles. Survey participants included individuals who own vehicles with RCD in the navigation display, other vehicle owners who have a navigation system without RCD, and vehicle owners who did not have either system. A summary of the research findings is available at the following link: http://media.marketwire.com/attachments/EZIR/217/361839_RCDResearchSum77.pdf

The study found that most drivers would want the rear camera feature on their next vehicle. Drivers also said they prefer that the display be located in the rearview mirror because the mirror is in the natural line of sight and allows the driver to view the display and reflected scene simultaneously. Gentex recently introduced technology that integrates the rear camera display in its auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and is currently shipping the product for five different vehicles. It is currently port- or dealer-installed equipment on the Mazda CX-9, and is factory-installed equipment as a stand-alone option on the Ford F-150 and Expedition, and the Lincoln Navigator and Mark LT.

"There is significant interest from our customers to offer mirror-based rear camera displays on their vehicles because they're easy to integrate, quick-to-market and are not tied to expensive navigation systems," said Gentex Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fred Bauer. "These latest research findings demonstrate a strong consumer appeal for rear camera systems and for the rearview mirror as an intuitive and ergonomic location to display rear camera images."

The Gentex technology results in an LCD display that appears automatically through the auto-dimming mirror's reflective surface when the vehicle is shifted into "reverse". The unique capability for the display to appear through the mirror's surface is made possible by Gentex's proprietary "transflective" coatings and lighting techniques, which result in a bright, high-resolution color image.

According to the research, consumer awareness of rear camera systems is high. In addition, 83 percent of drivers want a rear camera system on their next vehicle, and 77 percent would prefer that the display be located in the rearview mirror.

There currently is legislation pending related to rear back-up aids (H.R. 1216 -- also known as the "Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007", that is intended "to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles, and for other purposes." Additional information on H.R. 1216 is available at http://www.kidsandcars.org/. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's report, "Vehicle Backover Avoidance Technology Study - Report to Congress," is available at the following link: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/Vehicle%20Safety/Studies%20&%20Reports/Associated%20Files/BackoverAvoidanceTechStudy.pdf.

Founded in 1974, Gentex Corporation (NASDAQ: GNTX) is an international company that provides high-quality products to the worldwide automotive industry and North American fire protection market. Based in Zeeland, Michigan, the Company develops, manufactures and markets interior and exterior automatic-dimming mirrors that utilize proprietary electrochromic technology to dim in proportion to the amount of headlight glare from trailing vehicle headlamps. Many of the mirrors are sold with advanced electronic features, and more than 96 percent of the Company's revenues are derived from the sale of auto-dimming mirrors to nearly every major automaker in the world.

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