Engineers have long searched for a better solution to side view mirrors, which many view as ugly, aerodynamically inefficient, and prone to creating blind spots. As a solution to this problem, automotive parts supplier Continental Automotive Systems has created “digital mirrors” that replace traditional side view mirrors with cameras. Not only does this innovation improve the look of the vehicle, it also could reduce carbon dioxide emissions because of reduced drag and improved fuel economy. The new design will also cut down on noise and increase the driver’s field of view.
Thumb-sized video cameras placed on the exterior of the vehicle would deliver images of what is next to and behind the car onto interior screens placed on either end of the dashboard. The camera views are wider than what is currently viewable in a mirror and would completely eliminate blind spots. The cameras will be adjustable to increase brightness at night or reduce glare in bright sunlight. Further advances may also be able to link what is picked up by cameras to other systems like parking, collision, and automatic braking systems.
While this innovation has many potential benefits, drivers used to performing shoulder checks will require training and practice with the new system. However, having a single panoramic view video may still be an improvement over cars that combine outdated traditional side mirrors with rearview camera technology. While there are no definitive studies of side cameras, rearview cameras provide a precedent and have been deemed a significant safety improvement. In fact, they will be mandatory in light trucks and cars in the U.S. by 2018.
Road testing of mirrorless systems is expected to begin in Europe this year, followed by testing in Asia. The supplier hopes that the U.S. will follow suit.
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