Rearview Mirrors Might Evolve in a Few Years

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
rearview mirrors might evolve in a few years

Rearview mirrors haven’t enjoyed the same renaissance as other portions of the automobile. When the mirrors began appearing on cars roughly a century ago, wheels had wooden or wire spokes and were wrapped in organically sourced bias-ply rubber. Despite still being round, modern wheels are vastly different from their more-venerable counterparts but mirrors are not.

That might change in a few years. While some automakers have already affixed parking camera displays into the polished reflective centerpiece, like Ford, two manufactures have recently replaced traditional mirrors will full-time video feed. Nissan has one available for the Japanese market and General Motors introduced the Gentex “Full Display Mirror™” on the Cadillac CT6 and XT5 at 2016’s Consumer Electronics trade show.

While our gut-reaction is to contemplate how much more expensive a free-hanging LCD screen would be to replace than a simple mirror, this could be the general direction for a tech-focused industry. In fact, IHS Markit is already positive it’s only a matter of time.

Reported by Automotive News, research data from the analytics firm suggests global production of panoramic rearview displays to surge from this year’s 70,000 units to 1.8 million by 2025. “There is a lot of interest across the board,” said IHS Markit technology analyst Brian Rhodes. “We see a lot of development in North America and Japan.”

General Motors is already planning to offer the kit as an optional extra on more Cadillacs, Buick, and Chevrolet models in the years to come while Nissan is bringing its version to the states via the 2018 Armada. While both incarnations provide hybrid functionality, allowing the video feed to revert to a standard mirror at the touch of a button, the hope is to use it to eventually eliminate mirrors altogether. Those hybrid designs are expected to see 1.4 million annual units by 2025.

Although, the decline of mirrors will be largely dependent upon regulatory laws. While ditching side mirrors could improve overall fuel economy significantly, they are still mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s bylaws. However, if the NHTSA opts to abandon them, side-view camera displays could see a global production figure of 423,000 — again by 2025.

Gentex claims its covered either way. By providing a solution that allows traditional mirror to persist, while also providing the blind spot lessening panoramic video, OEMs can make use of its system anywhere on the globe right now. “There are different regulatory requirements in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Korea,” said Steve Downing, the company’s COO. “We are offering a product that will allow automakers to use one hardware set globally.”

Downing expects to build 500,000 hybrid display mirrors for General Motors, Subaru, and three unnamed companies in 2019 but Gentex is far from the only company looking at this type of application. Most manufacturers have introduced prototypes that have replaced mirrors with cameras and it’s only a matter of time before the technology seeps into production models.

While likely to be a welcome addition to larger vehicles with less direct sight lines on traffic (semi-trucks and SUVs, for example), it’s somewhat difficult to rationalize on models already offering a high-visibility greenhouse. In the end, it’s another expensive piece of hardware that would cost ten to twenty times more to replace that what is currently hovering below your current vehicle’s headliner. Here are two words we hope manufactures take to heart: optional extra.

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4 of 32 comments
  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Oct 23, 2017

    I have one question for those of you that have used them. How easy is it to judge distance with them? You have no natural depth perception with a mono-vision camera so how do you tell how close things are?

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Oct 23, 2017

      Good point. They’d almost need grid lines, like most backup cameras or like the Honda LaneWatch cameras.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Oct 23, 2017

    "While our gut-reaction is to contemplate how much more expensive a free-hanging LCD screen would be to replace than a simple mirror" Oh for ****s sake.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Oct 23, 2017

      Well, it’s a legitimate question, especially given the march of progress: 1. Keyed ignition versus prox-fob! 2. Pushbutton radios versus infotainment units which preclude installation of aftermarket equipment. 3. Halogen headlights versus LED units. Fortunately, it seems like huge failures of the above are rare, at least in the mainstream makes. I suppose if you keep a car long enough, it may be a different story.

  • Cprescott It is ugly enough. But why? You refuse to build enough of your products for your consumers.
  • Cprescott Only if your income also gives you more votes.
  • MrIcky It's always nice to see a car guy put in charge of cars instead of an accountant. I wish him well and look forward to some entertaining reveals. I think he and Gilles may be the only industry people that I actually enjoy listening to.
  • Master Baiter It doesn't matter whether autonomous vehicles are better or worse drivers than humans. Companies with deep pockets will find themselves sued over incidents like this. Enough lawsuits and the whole business plan collapses. Cheaper to just put a human behind the wheel.
  • MaintenanceCosts How many dogs are wiped out by human drivers annually?Which type of driver wipes out more dogs per mile? Per trip?Without some context there's not much information here.