DRIVING : Just Like Eyes in Back of Your Head

Avoidance systems are designed to keep pilots from steering their crafts into the ground, other airplanes or clouds filled with boulders. Now a similar device takes the bumper-thumping out of parking a car.

Developed by a San Antonio company, "Magic Eyes" is wired to backup lights and an ultrasonic detector on the rear bumper.

When your vehicle reverses within eight feet of an object--be it another bumper or your lawn mower--an alert sounds inside the car as a calm, single-tone beep. Within 40 inches, the frequency and decibels go ballistic. Any closer, and the alert usually is drowned by the crunch of mating bumpers.

The unit costs $199.95 plus $50 for installation and may be ordered by telephone, (800) 443-3303. Although designed primarily for commercial trucks--where 10 tons of tomatoes moving backward can cause considerable harm--the device will handle lighter demands of RVs and passenger cars.

"Some people are using it on exotic cars, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, even mounting it on front bumpers so they don't clean off the front air dam for $1,000," says Glenn Petersen, president of Magic Eyes. "Of course, if you're not in the car, it doesn't put out an arm and push the other guy away."

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