How Pioneer License Plate Blind Spot Detection Sees Where You Can’t, Preventing Driving Stress & Accidents Review

This review covers how Pioneer Blind Spot Detection (BSD) SDA-BS100 with radar over the rear license plate is viable quality option to upgrade cars to the latest safety technology.  Reviewer Lynn Walford has been driving with the BSD installed for three months as part of our new connected car aftermarket review features. This innovative BSD is black and is a license plate bar that goes over the top or bottom of the rear license plate.

SDA-BS100 Overall Rating Pros and Cons:

Rating Five Stars

Pros

  • Simple clean install that doesn’t take away from the design of the car.
  • Visible light warnings that work while blending in with the dash.
  • Pleasant and vibrant warning audible alerts.
  • Excellent telephone support.
  • It does what it says it is supposed to do.
  • Wide network of certified installers

Cons

  • You usually don’t know you need the Pioneer Blind Spot Detection until it’s too late.
  • If you are not a professional it will take time and support to install yourself.

What Are Blind Spot Detection, Blind Spot Warning and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert?

All cars and trucks have blind spots, places drivers can not see while driving. Most of the blind spots are behind the vehicle where mirror views are obstructed either by parts of the vehicle itself (A Pillars, car posts) or junk in the car or on the back window.

New cars can come equipped with different forms of Blind Spot Detection or Blind Spot Warnings. The system is designed to warn drivers of vehicles in driver’s blind spots. Most feature either lights flashing or and/or audible alert sounds warning that a vehicle is either approaching from the left (driver’s side) or right (passenger’s side) of the vehicle.

The cars behind the vehicle are detected by radar sensors that are usually embedded inside the bumper.

Another blind spot area occurs when backing out of a parking space or driveway into two way traffic. Often it is difficult for the driver to see what traffic is coming from either side due to the rear A pillars or other rear window obstructions. With  rear cross traffic-a radar sensor can “see” where the driver can not.

Up until recently, these features were only available on a new car or difficult to install. However, since the prices and market for new vehicles is constrained, a few hundred dollars of prevention could save days of stress and thousands of dollars in repairs.

Unfortunately, when I have interviewed people in the car safety industry, they say that usually people don’t look to buy the features until they realize they need them and I am one of them.

Why Your and My Car Needs A Blind Spot Detection System

A few times while driving on the freeway going really fast I tried to merge into the right or left lane and then I heard the loud honking of the speeding vehicles in the lane which I did not see That required the other drivers to warn me.

I’m short and I did not realize until I took a driver training enhancement program that blind spots tend to be significantly larger for shorter drivers. The elevation of the driver’s seat, the shape of a vehicle’s windows, and vehicle design can also affect the size of the blind spots.

In the meantime, earlier this year I started backing out of a parking space and unfortunately, a car came out of nowhere and I hit that car causing damage as well as damaging the bumper on my vehicle. My view was obscured because it was dark in the garage and due to blind spots.

What I really needed was a rear cross traffic alert. An alarm that was faster at sensing what was behind me than my eyes looking left and right. The views in my mirrors did not show the car because the car was going really fast. Then I  heard the clunk of the other car’s fender–It was too late.

Fortunately for me, the damage was not bad and I do have full insurance and planned on getting the bumper fixed. What pursued was living a hell dealing with 21st Century Farmers insurance. The repair estimate app didn’t work. I uploaded estimates they couldn’t find. They only allowed me to repair my vehicle on a Monday when I had to wait for almost two hours for a rental. I had to make several phone calls and emails to get a rental car while my car was repaired. I missed several hours of work dealing with the insurance and getting the car fixed.

Then after I had the bumper fixed there still needs to be some sanding and buffing so I have to take the car back again. If I were to sit down and think about all the hours I wasted getting my car fixed I would say it would total at least $1000 including the deductible.

Many times I talked to safety experts who extolled the virtues of this technology–I didn’t listen. Now I’m feeling it in my bank account.

When my insurance came up for renewal it doubled. It will take three years to get it off my record with the same insurance company and coverage. The total increase in insurance will be $3600 for the next three years on top of wasted time, time off from work and aggravation. A little non-serious accident is costing me $4600.

What is New and Better About the Pioneer Blind Spot Detection (BSD)?

I have seen other Blind Spot Detection units before that required drilling holes in the bumper for the sensors. This would be hard to install and also then the sensors would have to be painted. Another option is radar sensors mounted behind plastic bumpers only that would require taking off the bumper as well as wiring.

Recently,  Pioneer Technology released a new kind of blind spot detection unit. The SDA-BS100 and SDA-BS1do not require drilling holes or removing the bumper. They attach to the license plate and are wired through the car into the power supply  and under the dash of the car with only a few minor visual additions.

I have been a technology writer for over 20 years. I’ve written reviews of smartphones, computing devices, air pollution devices and more. I wanted to write a review of this unit so that more people would be aware of how it works and how valuable it is.

What are the Installation Requirements of Pioneer’s BSD?

If you want blind spot detection systems to not look ridiculous either inside or outside the vehicle, you want to have a brand that understands design. It should have a way of being wired into the vehicle and also powered without using the car’s 12 Volt power outlet (the thing formerly called the cigarette lighter).

I looked at some of the cheaper models and they have wires running all around the car and they might take up the optional 12 volt  electric source needed  for charging a phone or some other reason.

The Pioneer Blind Spot Detection units require connection to the turn signal indicator lights. So that it knows, the driver is planning to go in either direction.  It requires a power source from the vehicle that also has to be wired underneath the dash and parts of the vehicle for the wires to get from the license plate frame to the front interior of the vehicle.

There is also a speaker that goes under the dash to make the warning sound. It was a smart decision to make a separate speaker for the audio signal therefore it does conflict with the car’s the audio system. It is clearly different from the music or radio playing. The pitch sounds like a timer beep.

For me, I decided to hire Al and Eds Audio to do the installation, knowing that I have no experience installing such a unit in a vehicle and I have no knowledge of the electrical wiring inside a vehicle.

I’ve talked to friends who have installed a backup camera on his wife’s car and he said it took him a long time and that it was a very simple installation along with a head unit. Dealing with the dashboard of a vehicle can be very difficult, plus I’m afraid of scratching up the panels.

Unboxing the SDA-BS100 

Inside the SDA-BS100 box are:

  • License Plate Bar with built-in microwave radar sensors
  • Speaker with settings to be installed under the dash
  • GPS unit for speed sensing
  • License Plate Bar is IPX6 and IPX7 rated
  • LED indicators with pre-installed silver color covers (black covers also included)
  • Wires to connect to the central unit.
  • Main Unit
  • Main harness
  • Sensor Cable
  • 2 LED Extension cables
  • 2 Extra black LED indicator
  • Double-stick mounting tape for LED indicators, GPS
  • Cable Ties
  • Hook and loop fasteners
  • Screws and Hexagon Wrench
  • Angle Wedges
  • Instruction Manual

The specs state the SDA-BS100 and SDA-BS1 provide blind-spot detection of vehicles approaching from behind with a coverage range of up to 50 feet. The left and right LED indicator lights are designed to be surface mounted in the vehicle interior. The SDA-BS100 includes both silver and black colored LED indicator light covers, while the SDA-BS1 consists of only black.

The shims or angle wedges are used to make sure that the BSD unit is exactly parallel and perpendicular to the ground.

The factory default is set to detect and warn at threshold speeds at or above 20-mph. At speeds under the 20-mph threshold, objects will not be detected.

Situations which may affect the SDA-BS100’s reading accuracy include

  • When metal objects are in the direct path of the sensing signal.
  • Weather such as heavy rain and snow, and icy road conditions, which can cause changes in sensitivity.
  • Gravel roads, which may cause interference due to dust, debris, or foreign objects.

The BSD won’t work on vehicles with metal obstructions in front of the license plate, such as a spare tire mount, rear bike racks or other blocks.

The BSD has a three-year warranty.

What Are Blind Spot Detection Installation Issues?

We did have some issues with the installation. The location of the license plate on my Nissan Leaf is indented in the bumper. The unit has to stick out a bit and also be parallel to the ground. the license plate location has a slight angle going in which required that the installer to use the shims that come in the box. The depth of with the license plate bar was thicker than screws could hold it, therefore the installer had to use a longer screw. To check the angle a using a level is helpful.

The screws have hex heads that help prevent theft, it comes with a hex tool. It is a good idea to keep the tool in the car, if you ever need to remove the license plate—or sell the car.

The GPS unit should be installed on the passenger side of the dash. It does not obscure the view.

Since I am short, I had the LED warning lights installed close to windshield. Adjust the location of the LED lights so that all the drivers of the car can see them in their field of view.

The box does not have the serial number of the computer unit on it. I suggest you take a photo of it for your records.

How Was Pioneer Tech Support?

I called tech support to ask questions and the staff was available and knew the product. Telephone tech support is very important to have because owners don’t always know what the devices are called or how something works, a good tech can ask questions to determine the best advice.

Testing on the Road

Scary Freeway Merging Five Stars

One of the freeway clovers that I hate more than anything else is when I’m coming home going east.And I have to go over a high curve. And get over two right lanes of traffic on the northbound freeway to get home. Usually, I have pings of fear in my gut as I try to get across the two lanes while the traffic merging going north were all going 60 miles an hour or faster to try to get into the far left lane. As I was merging with the other two lanes going north I had my signal on, I did not see the big truck in my mirror because it was going really fast. The road itself has blind spot. I  heard  the warning sound and the right light flashed. I waited for the truck to pass and had a way to get over. Previously. Sometimes I found this interchange so dangerous that I would miss my exit and have to go to the next exit past my home exit.

At night, when it is very difficult to see, I notice the lights on either side. Light up when a car is passing on either right or left lane. This is very helpful when I’m trying to navigate across the freeway to merge onto another freeway. It is also good on surface streets.  During the day, I don’t notice the lights as much. But I also don’t need them as much. The unit is set to 20mph therefore it does not light up when my cars is under that, which prevents problems in heavy slow traffic.

Parallel Parking on a Busy Street

While parallel parking on a busy street with the blinker on, I was warned of approaching traffic. I was also warned when a car behind me stopped at a stop light, was approaching way too quickly. I noticed that the driver was looking at her phone. I tried to avoid her because she was driving distracted.

Backing Out of Spaces

Using the blind spot detection unit from Pioneer while backing out of a parking space is truly a godsend. It detects cars coming in both directions. The warning sound lets me know that there is a car moving towards the car. I  still do have to be aware that this is not a sophisticated system and does not detect small objects or non-moving objects such as small children, pedestrians, maybe a bicycle or a shopping cart. The system also requires that I be aware and put my foot on the brake. It is not an automated system like some that automakers show in television ads.

I also have to be aware that while backing out of the driveway, it takes time for the GPS to start and the system to be activated, causing the lights to flash. As with all kinds of driving, it is always a good idea to check the path behind the vehicle while entering the car and look in the mirrors frequently.

Other Perks & Benefits of SDA-BS100

Since I have been using the SDA-BS100 I have less stress and anxiety while driving on freeways and faster roads when I merge into lanes. While backing out of my drive way and parking spaces—I feel more confident. The warning signals help me keep more alert while driving. It has also made me more alert to distracted drivers. The warning signal activated when someone was serving into the blind spot–she was looking at her phone. I made sure to stay out of her lane and tried to stay away from her.

Since the bumper has been fixed, there is not a major scratch or scuff on it, I think it has made me a better and safer driver.

Conclusion and Recommendations

So far, I am extremely satisfied the Pioneer Blind Spot Detection SDA-BS100 unit.

I had been thinking about getting one last year and did not. Now, I am paying the price. I know that if I had this unit installed it would have prevented the accident—I would have saved close to $4600 and tons of aggravation. With a an MSRP of $500 the SDA-BS1000 is surely worth the investment.

This review, I hope prevents the same kinds of car accidents from happening to you.

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