By on October 22, 2017

rearview mirror

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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32 Comments on “Rearview Mirrors Might Evolve in a Few Years...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Does anyone else remember the large ‘panoramic’ rear view mirrors that were available circa late 60’s/early 70’s that consisted of multiple mirrors and were nearly as wide as the windshield?

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, however they were illegal in my state since any deviation from stock in form and function technically renders a vehicle unroadworthy which from time to time when street racing yahoos get a little too rowdy the state police have used to stunning effect.

      And when panoramic mirrors were all the rage police used to regularly pull people over and issue equipment violations until they eventually died out despite their usefulness.

  • avatar

    Better hope so, since regulations or simply poor engineering has taken away all real views.

    Other than I suppose the new Volkswagen and Subaru, looking out the rear and rear corners is becoming impossible.

  • avatar

    I think it works this way: Mandate cameras for larger vehicles and offer them as options on smaller vehicles. That way, someone isn’t forced to purchase what they don’t really need. Mirrors are useful if people actually use them (which they often don’t).

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    I had always heard the pros and cons of a completely-camera-based system as follows:

    1. removal of external mirrors improved MPG
    2. removal of external mirrors improved wind noise (single most common complaint in JD Power quality surveys)
    3. replacement of external mirrors with these camera systems cost more
    4. regulators were unimpressed since the failure mode (e.g. power goes out) is very bad: no view at all (versus the inherent redundancy of 2 outside mirrors and one inside)

    • 0 avatar

      Good points all. In tight parking lots, or in crowded city traffic, I’ve found the mirrors act like a defensive perimeter, or maybe whiskers is a better word. I’ve never hit my mirror, but I know I can squeeze between the double parked car and the sanitation truck if my mirrors clear.

  • avatar

    Sure, let’s replace something as simple as a flat surface with a reflective coating on one side, that may be the only thing still working when the car is shredded, with a complex piece that’ll make the mechanics boat payment this month.

    K.I.S.S.(not the band) is so outdated a theory.
    Well, so is the band but that’s another forum.


  • avatar

    Inside rear view mirrors did evolve. First it was the day-night mirrors that you had to flip a lever to switch between modes. Some started to come with integrated map lights. Then came the auto dimming mirror that is done electronically. Some are even smart enough so they will stay in normal mode if the car is in reverse. Then as you noted they have incorporated a screen for a back up camera as well as direction or other indicators. And of course they have embedded other unrelated items such as On-Star.

    So there are already some very expensive mirrors, as in several hundred dollars, hanging from many windshields.

    • 0 avatar

      The automatic day-night mirrors are worthless, going virtually black. I’ve had some rental car mirrors go black as I passed one type of high-sodium street light, go back to normal and then go black again, repeatedly as I passed more lights. It was like a Charlie Chaplin movie, but without Charlie!

      I’ve triggered the map light and onstar a couple times just trying to adjust the mirror. I’m thankful for Pep Boys’ clip-on 12×2 inch mirror with manual day-night lever that I take with me when I rent a car.

      If they’re thinking of removing the inside rear view mirror entirely, I should go back to Pep Boys for a replacement unit I can glue to the windshield of my own car, or keep repairing my old car until it rusts away.

      • 0 avatar

        It all depends on the implementation, I’ve been quite happy with mine.

      • 0 avatar

        The automatic mirrors I’ve used, have given me the opposite experience. I like them because they’re more useful in the city in their “dim” mode than the manually dimmable ones. I can actually still see and judge where other cars are, even when they’ve dimmed.

      • 0 avatar

        That sounds like a mistake in engineering, letting the ambient-light sensor on the front-facing side of the assembly see too high, catching those sodium lamps as though you were directly facing the sun. OR, they were catching the light from the sun/moon roof and reacting as though a car behind you had its high-beams on.

        Understanding how they’re supposed to work does help, you know. For that matter, there is a switch allowing you to turn that sensor off on most cars. A tiny LED at the base of the mirror tells you whether that sensor is on or off and the switch is usually next to the light.

  • avatar

    Have they considered the environmental consequences when it comes to disposal?

  • avatar

    Dang. Without the rear view mirror, how can I shave while I drive to work?

  • avatar

    I already own a vehicle that has a full-time video feed instead of a rearview mirror, and it’s 5 years old.

    It’s a 2012 Ram C/V, the cargo version of the Caravan. Since it doesn’t have a back window, it has a rear camera and a small screen in a mirror-shaped thing. It works pretty well during the day, except everything looks kind of fisheyed like a Missy Elliot video. At night, it’s pretty much just headlight blurs on the road.

  • avatar

    I test drove a Bolt and found the GM system (which comes standard in that car) pretty amazing. It didn’t feel as if there was any compromise versus the mirror.

  • avatar

    In 1972, I walked out to the parking lot behind where I worked in Santa Monica (CA). There, I found a bunch of guys with cars, cameras, targets, and cones set up. Their consulting company had rented the lot to perform trials on enhanced rear vision systems, under a contract from (I think) NHTSA (or whatever it was then). The cool thing was that they actually allowed me to sit in the cars while they recorded my observations.

    Besides the expected panoramic and “wink” mirrors, the coolest one was a periscope! It was installed on a low-slung car, a Corvette as I recall. I was amazed at the quality of the view — no blind spots! The guys told me that the government was planning to mandate enhanced rear view systems, and that they would probably appear within five years. I’m still waiting.

  • avatar

    i bought a “broadway” JDM clip on convex mirror years ago and i love it. i can see out the back and both side rear windows at the same time. of course i still check my side mirrors too.

  • avatar

    Not only would a high-tech mirror be more (much more!) expensive to replace, the problem arises that it definitely would need replacement. Have you or anyone you’ve known EVER had to replace a rear view mirror that no longer worked? Having to re-glue it to the windshield is a rare enough occurrence in itself, but having to replace the mirror?

    • 0 avatar
      Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

      Analog just works so well. There are no capacitors to leak in a glass mirror.
      And you could use it to send Morse code if you ever get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
      Try that with a microchipped camera and display system!

    • 0 avatar

      Rasputin (wow, guess he really was that hard to kill) writes: “Have you or anyone you’ve known EVER had to replace a rear view mirror that no longer worked? Having to re-glue it to the windshield is a rare enough occurrence in itself, but having to replace the mirror?”

      Sure. Mirrors can and do start to lose their silvering, and once the leprosy starts the final outcome is certain. It happens more often with the doors mirrors, since they’re external, but the interior mirror can suffer the same fate.

      However if I have a complaint about mirrors it’s that the DOT won’t allow convex glass on the driver’s door, apparently because US drivers would be way too easily confused. I’ve gone to the trouble and expense of buying the Euro version glass inserts for the two cars I drive regularly. This improves their coverage angle considerably.

      • 0 avatar

        Honda did that for a bit with the left sliver of the driver’s mirror. I’ve got it on my Accord, and honestly, it does nothing. (Not to say that if the entire glass surface wasn’t like the passenger side, it wouldn’t be an improvement, like you state. “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” might be a lost concept, however!)

        As for surface deterioration, Your Honor, may I present the mirrors from MkIV Jettas and B5 Passats as exhibit “A!” (Too bad, because the blue tint helps to cut glare!) With those mirrors, I wonder if the heat from the defrosters helps to degrade the surface over time?

        And the manual-dimming inside mirrors in the VWs, until recently, had beige rims, with the result that you’d be blinded by following traffic at night, even after flipping the thing to “night” mode!

  • avatar

    Can’t figure out why Gentex makes the damn things so ugly!

    Their rimless autochromic ones which are propagating through Honda and Subaru, to name two makes, are an inverted trapezoidal, “smiley” shape, which looks like a bucktoothed clown is grinning at you from the windshield header, and I can’t “un-see” that! (Not to mention that the thing feels flimsy (as I thought it might), as I found out while sitting in a new Odyssey at the dealer, plus the edges will throw glare back at the driver, from what I’ve read elsewhere.)

    It’s bad enough that I’ll actually investigate being able to swap that mirror out for a HomeLink-integrated mirror of the “regular” design, with a non-glare rim, at my cost, that doesn’t look like some horror-movie clown, on my next Accord! (Then, assuming the wiring harnesses are compatible, I’ll just have the dealer swap the smiley one back in come trade-in, and use the replacement in the next car.)

    On Gentex’s site, they claim the “mirror as a module,” and that seems to be the case from this article.

    What I can’t figure out is what will substitute for the side mirrors! Where will the monitors go? A-pillar seems to be the best bet, but that would make it thick again!

  • avatar

    Regarding cost and complexity of replacing side mirrors with cameras. With so many side mirrors now with powered adjustment, heaters, lights and turn signaling with all the attendant plumbing inside the car, how much more expensive could a camera system be? The cameras themselves are cup of coffee cheap.

  • avatar

    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?

  • avatar

    “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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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