SOURCE: Gentex Corporation

March 12, 2007 05:20 ET

Rear Vehicle Blind Zones Come Into View

ZEELAND, MI -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 12, 2007 --Gentex Corporation (NASDAQ: GNTX) -- Although vehicles come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, most have one thing in common -- large and dangerous rear blind zones that make it nearly impossible for drivers to see directly behind them when backing up. Automakers have begun offering sensor- and camera-based systems that alert drivers to potential hazards in their rearward path, but debate remains over their effectiveness and relatively high cost.

Using audible and/or visual alerts, sensor-based systems do a decent job of warning drivers to stationary objects. This is critical considering that backing into a pole at just 5 mph can cause hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in vehicular damage.

Far more serious, however, are backover accidents, which annually cause more than 7,000 injuries and some 200 fatalities, mostly to young children. Consumer and child advocacy groups contend that backover accidents could be dramatically reduced if automakers provided camera-based systems that allow drivers to see directly behind the vehicle.

Support for this claim recently came in the form of a 2006 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study entitled "Vehicle Backover Avoidance Technologies," which concluded that "camera-based systems have the greatest potential to provide drivers with reliable assistance in identifying people in the path of the vehicle while backing up."

Despite their effectiveness, rear camera systems are neither widely available nor in the budget for most vehicle buyers because they require a display, which typically only comes bundled with an expensive navigation system package.

But that may change thanks to a new technology that integrates the rear camera display into an interior auto-dimming rearview mirror. Zeeland, Michigan-based Gentex Corporation, which supplies automatic-dimming mirrors to the worldwide automotive industry, has developed a display that appears through the mirror's reflective surface when the vehicle is put in reverse.

Because of its relatively low cost and simple vehicle integration, the rearview mirror display is a simple, economical way for automakers to offer the feature on more vehicles.

"The rearview mirror is a safe, intuitive and ergonomic location to display rear-camera video because it allows you to view the display and the reflected scene simultaneously," said Fred Bauer, Gentex chairman of the board and chief executive officer. "It also allows automakers to offer the feature on a wider variety of vehicles because it's easy to integrate into the vehicle and no longer needs to be tied to expensive navigation systems."

Gentex is currently working on development programs for rear camera display mirrors with several major automakers. Once a specification is locked in by one of these customers, Gentex could be in volume production on the new mirror display product within nine to 12 months.

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 automotive rearview 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 approximately 96 percent of the Company's revenues are derived from the sales of auto-dimming mirrors to nearly every major automaker in the world.

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