The Future of Rearview and Side Mirrors

July 20, 2016 •

The Future of Rearview cameras and side mirrors

© General Motors

By May 2018 all new cars and trucks will come with rearview cameras. That’s an important safety advance, but it raises another question: How long before cameras replace door mirrors?

The car manufacturers are ahead of you. They’re lobbying the NHTSA to allow cameras rather than mirrors, and there are good reasons for this.

Improving Aerodynamics

You’ve probably noticed the noise door mirrors generate at highway speeds. That’s the sound of air being forced around them, and if you hear it, your car feels it. That means the engine works harder, and gas mileage suffers.

Automakers are under intense pressure to improve gas mileage. Eliminating side mirrors, even if they’re replaced with cameras on stalks, would certainly help. And a side benefit would be less wind noise in the cabin!

Improving Safety

We all check our mirrors before changing lanes, of course, but blind spots are still a problem. Cameras could eliminate this with a wider field of view. And as an added benefit, there would be no need to adjust mirrors when jumping into an unfamiliar vehicle.

Ready to Go

Currently NHTSA regulations don’t allow automakers to replace door mirrors with cameras. That doesn’t mean they’re not working on it, though. At the January 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) BMW indicated they could introduce cameras as soon as 2019 and other companies are sure to follow.

The Japanese makers may be first to market. As reported on the Motor1 website, their government has already given the green light to replacing mirrors with cameras, and the first such models could be on the road before year-end.

American Cars are in the Race

It’s not just the Germans and Japanese who are pushing new mirror technology. Late last year Cadillac announced that their new CT6 sedan and XT5 crossovers will come with a novel camera-based rearview mirror.

Mounted where the rearview mirror is now, this displays a camera view of what’s behind the vehicle. It covers a wider view than the traditional mirror, and with some clever technology, actually removes “obstructions of passengers, headrests and the vehicle’s roof and rear pillars.”

And there’s no need to worry about the NHTSA. They’ve already blessed it, perhaps because it can switch modes to act just like the mirror we’re all familiar with.

Cameras are definitely going to replace mirrors. The only question remaining is, when will the NHTSA allow them in the US?