Now A Rearview Mirror On The Stars

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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ZEELAND — Gentex Corp. has added yet another facet to its revolutionary rearview mirror: the OnStar system. The manufacturer of commercial fire protection products and automatic-dimming rearview mirrors (with goodies such as tire pressure monitors) reports it has developed and begun shipping what will serve as the driver interface for OnStar.

OnStar is the in-vehicle safety, security and information service that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology and wireless communication to link the driver and vehicle to a 24-hour operator network that provides real-time, person-to-person assistance.

Advisors at the OnStar Center can relay directions, track a stolen vehicle, unlock your doors, summon emergency services, diagnose vehicle or engine problems and provide a host of other services.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that OnStar has decided to locate one of the system’s interfaces in the rearview mirror. Their decision confirms what we’ve maintained for years — that the rearview mirror is one of the best locations for the driver interfaces related to on-board messaging and communication systems,” said Ken La Grand, vice president.

“From an ergonomics standpoint, it’s ideal because the mirror’s location allows the driver to view and interact with the system while keeping his or her natural line-of-sight on the road ahead.”  (The same thinking years ago led the aerospace industry to create so-called head-up display gunsights for advanced jet fighters.)

As La Grand stated, locating OnStar in the rearview mirror also makes sense from an ergonomics standpoint. It allows automakers to add OnStar to their vehicle lineups quickly, affordably and in a consistent location. It also saves space in the instrument panel and prevents costly interior redesigns.

Gentex is the world’s leading supplier of automatic-dimming mirrors, which use a combination of sophisticated sensors and electronic circuitry to detect glare from rearward approaching vehicles and automatically dim to protect driver vision.

Over the years Gentex has developed automatic-dimming mirrors that also contain compass displays, outside-temperature indicators, remote keyless entry receivers, map lamps and other electronic devices. The company’s experience in developing these high-tech mirror devices allowed Gentex to become the lead development partner on the OnStar mirror.

Gentex is developing a number of different OnStar mirrors to accommodate various vehicle applications. In addition to automatically dimming, some versions of the OnStar mirror will contain a compass display and advanced map lamps utilizing light-emitting diodes. Gentex currently is shipping OnStar auto-dimming rearview mirrors for seven General Motors models.

The OnStar system interface itself will consist of a series of three small buttons located on the rearview mirror’s chin. A fourth button will operate the mirror’s additional functions.

“This new product has the potential to become significant incremental business for Gentex,” said LaGrand. OnStar recently announced that its services would be included in nearly one million GM cars and trucks within the next 18 months.

Gentex Corp. is an international company that provides high-quality products to the worldwide automotive industry and North American fire protection market.

The company develops, manufacturers and markets proprietary electro-optic products, including interior and exterior electrochromic, automatic-dimming Night Vision Safety automotive rearview mirrors that dim in proportion to the amount of headlight glare from trailing vehicle headlamps, and an exclusive line of fire protection products for commercial applications.

Revenues from the sale of automatic-dimming mirrors generate all but nine percent of total company revenues.

Gentex was the first company in the world to successfully develop and produce a commercial electrochromic mirror for the motor vehicle industry and the recent addition takes that development one step further.

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