Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cameras Are Poised To Make Side View Mirrors Obsolete

Isn’t it odd that Tesla can put semi-autonomous cars on the road without any objection from regulators but manufacturers are prohibited from using cameras to replace side view mirrors because of regulations? Cameras have come a long way in just a few years. During the Formula One race July 3 in Austria, a camera embedded in the curb on the outside of one turn gave viewers a clear image of the wheels of the cars as they hurtled by at more than 180 miles per hour. Surely a camera that can do that could also help us monitor traffic conditions around us as we drive.
Cameras will replace side view mirrors
As of June 17, cameras that replace side view mirrors are now legal in Japan. Several Japanese companies are racing to capture this new market and suppliers in other countries are waking up to a new market opportunity. Tesla reportedly wanted to eliminate side view mirrors on its Model X but was prevented from doing so by safety regulations.
Side view mirrors give designers fits because they break up the visual flow of their creations. Aerodynamicists dislike them because they cause turbulence and drag. Now it appears both may get their fondest wish — the elimination of side view mirrors at long last.
One of the leaders in this new camera technology is Ichikoh Industries in Japan. “Our job is to improve the visibility of the drive, with lighting and mirrors, but now also with cameras,” says its CEO Ali Ordoobadi. He sees a major opportunity for his company. “There is a switch of technology, a kind of rupture,” he said. “It’s a really new segment with higher content, and that means higher revenue opportunities. This is the trend, and we have to be in front of the others.”
Ichikoh’s first product is an interior rear view mirror that has a double function: It operates as a regular mirror but transforms into a digital screen that displays a live video feed of what is happening behind the car with the flick of a switch. Dubbed the Smart Rear View Monitor, it entered production June 28 for a vehicle that goes on sale in Japan in August.
Mirrorless cars got a big boost last year when the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations approved the use of cameras that meet certain specifications in place of mirrors. Tetsuya Saito, section chief on engineering policy at Japan’s Road Transport Bureau, said Japan changed its rules in light of video quality advancements. “The U.N. regulations have standards that clearly determine high performance specs,” Saito said. “Until now, camera monitors haven’t been introduced to replace mirrors because they didn’t have sufficient visibility.
The European Union is expected to approve mirrorless cars next year. The US should follow in 2018, with China joining the switch to cameras instead of mirrors shortly thereafter.

Germany’s Robert Bosch doesn’t even make mirrors but it sees an opportunity to leverage its expertise in electronics to enter this new market segment. Bosch spokeswoman Barbara Zelenay says it has developed a system for commercial trucks that uses interior displays mounted on the cabin’s A-pillars. “The technology is not the issue,” Zelenay says. “It’s up to the legislation. We don’t make mirrors, but we could make the replacement for mirrors.”
Cameras instead of mirrors make a lot of sense for large trucks, which often have mirrors the size of barn doors festooned on their doors and fenders. Not only would the new systems cut down on aerodynamic drag, they would allow big rig drivers a clearer view of what is going on around their vehicles.
The changeover from mirrors to cameras will come gradually and not all drivers will embrace the new technology at first. For one thing, the view drivers get on their display screens do not show the B and C pillars that support the roof of the vehicle. Drivers are accustomed to using those items as reference points to help them accurately assess where they are on the road and their relationship to other cars.
As with all new technology, it will take some time to replace what we are used to and become the prevailing standard. But by the end of this decade, mirrorless cars should start becoming a common sight. Once drivers understand that cameras are safer than traditional mirrors, they will begin demanding them for their own cars.
Source and photo credit: Automotive News

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