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Sonar Step
By Larry Edsall

SonarStep warns of things behind your vehicle

The neighbor's relatively new Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, a diesel-powered 4x4 crew cab that got a lift kit and serious off-road wheels and tires mounted just days after it left the dealership, came home one day recently with a serious dent in its rear fender and a bulge in its right-rear quarter panel.

The neighbor had backed into a post in a parking lot.

But it could have been worse. Hitting a post can cause cosmetic damage, but too often what is hiding in a vehicle's blind spot is a child. According to federal statistics, some 6000 people are injured each year in vehicle "backovers" and 120 die.

Whether they are called rear parking assist or proximity sensors, many auto makers offer electronic devices on their new vehicles to alert the driver when something or someone is behind the vehicle. An aftermarket product also is available, and for only $179.

The Dolphin SonarStep is designed to plug into the trailer hitch on a car, truck or utility vehicle. Power comes from the typical seven-way trailer adapter. Instead of having to weave wires through your vehicle, the receiver is wireless, working by radio frequency, and simply plugs into the 12-volt power outlet in the dashboard.

"We really wanted this to be a serious yet easy to install product," said Mark Swannie of EchoMaster LLC, the Hawaii-based company that designs, manufacturers and markets safety and convenience products for fleet, commercial and personal vehicles and that developed the Dolphin.

To show how easy the Dolphin system is to install, Swannie took it to the National Auto Dealers Association convention and asked people to install the unit blindfolded, which some did within 12 seconds.

Dolphin scans an area eight feet wide and emits a slow beep and shows a green light if something is within seven feet of the unit. The beep quickens and the light turns yellow if something is within five feet, and then a solid tone and rear light when the unit is within three feet of an object.

For more information or to buy a Dolphin SonarStep, visit or call (888) 324-6678. The Dolphin SonarStep also is available through various auto parts retailers.

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