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Car Tech Spotlight: Audi A7's ultrabright blind spot alert

Drivers can’t miss the sometimes startling LED indicator in the side mirror, although they can choose to turn it down.

By Douglas Newcomb Mar 3, 2014 7:28AM

Audi A7 Side Assist adjustmentBlind-spot warning systems that use cameras or radar sensors to detect other vehicles in a driver’s "no-see-‘em" zone have become available on a wider variety of vehicles. But the visual and audible alerts they give off -- and that add to a growing cacophony of warning sounds and flashing lights from a proliferation of driver assistance systems -- can become all too easy to ignore, which has become a problem in and of itself.

Ignoring the visual alerts from Audi’s Side Assist blind-spot warning system shouldn’t be a problem since it’s bright enough to startle a driver, as I found out recently while testing a 2014 Audi A7 TDI. In fact, it was too bright. Fortunately, the intensity of the warning (a series of yellow LEDs fixed to the side mirror housings) can be adjusted.

Both my wife and I on separate occasions flinched from the flash of the alert. The first time I initially thought that a police cruiser or other emergency vehicle that I hadn’t seen or heard was bearing down on me. So the Side Assist visual alert definitely gets your attention -- if you want it to.

While digging around in the driver assistance section of the A7 TDI’s in-dash, onscreen menu, I noticed that the intensity of the Side Assist alert can be adjusted between dark to bright using the MMI rotary controller in the center console. I had it set to bright in the video below, but this doesn’t do the brightness of the alert justice, especially when it’s dark out.

Interestingly, Audi’s Side Assist feature doesn’t also include an audible alert, like some blind-spot warning systems. Maybe that’s because the visual warning is so bright, but apparently Audi doesn’t agree that it is. On its media website, Audi says that “a yellow LED indicator lights up in the side mirror housing without disturbing the driver, since the driver only sees it when looking directly at the mirror.”

From my experience, that wasn’t the case. But truth be told, if there’s a vehicle in my blind spot that I don’t see when I start to switch lanes, I want to be startled.

Mar 7, 2014 9:48AM
Gone are the days when actually paying attention was a requirement of driving.  Nowadays its like trying to navigate the aisles of Costco on a Saturday.  NO ONE pays attention to what's going on around them anymore - too caught up in intentional distractions.
Mar 3, 2014 11:37AM
Situational awareness is the best method, not a 5 year old technology, but if you insist on paying more attention to a smart phone then the task at hand you will continue to be "surprised"!
Mar 7, 2014 9:38AM
People don't know how to use their Driver's side mirror. 95% have it viewing down the side of their car, when you can see that angle in the Rear-view. I NEVER have to turn my head when changing lanes to the left. Kick the mirror out farther. When the vehicle behind me leaves my rear-view, it's in my side view
Mar 3, 2014 7:35AM
One more thing designed to stop a wreck that can actually cause one.
Mar 7, 2014 11:01AM
This feature along with Audi's new Adaptive cruise control are great features. Once you get used to it. Its saved me a handful of times and provides extra confidence that nothing is in your blindspot. I call it all my invisible wife. Keeps me out of trouble. My wife has the feature in her Audi as well.
Mar 7, 2014 12:54PM
Every defensive driving school teaches the rear view mirror is, oddly enough, for seeing what's behind you. The SIDE view mirrors are to be adjusted to see what's beside you, in your blind spot or approaching from the rear on either side. The side view mirrors are not meant to see what's behind you. Adjusting the mirrors properly and used as they are designed eliminates the need for blind spot sensors.
Mar 7, 2014 12:30PM
This is what I call pre occupied driving it sucks driving out there.
Mar 4, 2014 6:27PM
I have this device on my 2013 Allroad.  It drives me nuts.  I switch it off.  Audi has far too many other "nanny" features today that detract from the business of responsible driving.
Mar 7, 2014 2:04PM
I have this on my A6. Its way too conservative.
Mar 7, 2014 2:07PM
Audi......overrated.....and overpriced....
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