Japan may Beat U.S. to Allowing Camera-based Side Mirrors

The first Tesla Model X renderings may have shown unobtrusive camera pods in place of side-view mirrors, but production models have conventional mirrors.

That’s because Tesla couldn’t convince U.S. regulators to allow it to replace door-mounted mirrors with cameras. Japanese regulators have a different view on the matter, it seems.

Japan may be the first country to allow mirror-less cars that use cameras for outward visibility, according to Automotive News.

Regulators changed the relevant rules to allow camera-based side mirrors last month, according to the industry trade journal.

Late last year, the United Nations’ World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations approved the use of cameras that meet certain specifications in place of mirrors. This reportedly helped sway Japanese regulators, along with recent advances in video quality. Removing bulky side-view mirrors can significantly improve aerodynamics by reducing a car’s frontal area and allowing air to flow more smoothly around the car.

There are other potential benefits too.

Camera-based mirrors can compensate somewhat for glare, and image-enhancement software can improve visibility at night.

They also let car designers create sleeker, uncluttered bodies, like the many concept cars over the years that have replaced mirrors with cameras. However, external camera lens can also be blocked by rain or snow, something drivers with rear-view cameras already experience.

The streaming-video rear-view mirror offered in the Cadillac CT6 and XT5 reverts to a conventional mirror when video feed is not available, but this wouldn’t be possible on side-view cameras that have no analog backup.

Cameras offer a wider field of view unobstructed by things like pillars and occupants’ heads, but that can mean drivers have fewer reference points for the vehicle’s position relative to other objects.

Japanese consumers will soon get to experience these pros and cons, as suppliers are already planning to market the camera hardware to carmakers.

Japan’s Ichikoh predicts that by 2023, 12 percent of cars on sale in the country will have cameras in place of side-view mirrors.

However, the company will first market a rear-view mirror that displays video feed from a camera, apparently similar to the one already offered by Cadillac.

It will go on sale in August in a low-volume model from an unnamed carmaker, according to the supplier.

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