Japan Approves Mirror-less Cars

Inside a future BMW?

A car without mirrors may seem to be a step backwards in terms of automotive safety. Traditionally, we have seen ever larger mirrors festooning our vehicles, in an attempt to gain a better all-around view. But they have become a bit of a drag when it comes to styling and aerodynamics, taking a huge toll on your car’s fuel efficiency and, of course, they are also a bit vulnerable to damage, especially when you get a tad too close to another car and lose one.

We have become quite used to concept cars eschewing the need for mirrors in a bid to gain overall visual aesthetic pleasure, and some automakers have already incorporated video technology as a safer, better looking and more efficient solution to the age-old problem of the mirrors. The only problem is that in just about every country worldwide, it is illegal not to have mirrors. Japan, though, has taken the first step in the march towards a mirror-less future, with some new legislation that allows for the use of cameras in place of mirrors. This advance could not have happened if video technology hadn’t come a long way in the resolution stakes, and follows the 2015 UN’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations that allowed for the replacement of mirrors by video technology.

Being the first could give any company a huge advantage in the race for industry acceptance, with a number of companies at the forefront of the technology, such as Bosch, Gentex and Ichikoh, and it would seem that Japan has beaten others to the punch with this announcement. But not so fast. Similar legislation is being drafted in Europe and the US, with China likely to follow suit soon after.

The inclusion of a video system can certainly have its problems, but the potential improvement of safety is high on the list of benefits. The cameras can be placed just about anywhere on a vehicle, thus eliminating blind spots, and adjusting for glare or low light is also possible. The new systems will also be lighter than existing mirrors and, assumingly, less prone to damage. However, the big plus for a video system will be gains in the aerodynamic efficiency of the vehicle, thus helping automakers achieve the future tougher economy and emissions target.

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