• Student Life
Frances Hsu ’23 Helps Take the Danger out of Driving

Autumn in New Jersey is lovely – the fall leaves and cooler temperatures create the perfect atmosphere for the season’s first sweaters and scrumptious pumpkin, well, everything. While the longer evenings make more time for s’mores and hot chocolate, early darkness combined with bad weather can make driving more dangerous.

Frances Hsu ’23 (along with younger siblings Megan and David) now holds a Taiwanese patent for a device that could make driving safer in fog, rain, or snow. Many cars use onboard cameras and computers to determine whether there is a vehicle ahead, then calculate distance and speed, to maintain safety. However, in poor visibility, the camera functions are compromised.

The Hsu system uses a high directional, ultrasonic array that can be installed on cars to emit and receive ultrasonic warning signals. In addition to high directivity, the signals can have a transmission distance of up to 100 meters at high power. These directional ultrasonic devices can also be placed on warning triangles, commonly placed in the road to alert drivers of an upcoming accident. Their creation won the gold medal in the 2021 All American DAVINCI International Innovation and Invention Expo.

Hsu is working on an American patent for the system. “I’m hopeful that we can find an automobile company that is willing to work with us to start implementing this on actual cars,” she said. “It could be especially helpful on self-driving cars.”

Hsu’s most recent work builds from an earlier invention she created as a seventh grader. She and her older brother (Jonathan) used the directional speaker system on traffic lights so visually impaired pedestrians could more safely use crosswalks. She and her family decided to give the Taiwanese patent to the Taipei School for the Visually Impaired. “We felt like they could use it more properly,” she explained.

Both inventions were created, she said, because “I really wanted to do what I can to lessen danger for myself and others.”

For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.