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Cameras Could Replace Car Mirrors? (bloomberg.com)
77 points by gscott 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments

I'd say no to that, aside from the reliability and KISS aspects of this, there is one thing cameras won't be able to do properly: parallax. In tight parking spaces or near curbs I will often move around in the car so that I can see obstacles without having to adjust the mirrors.

I think that parallax aside, the benefit of cameras is that a much wider angle can be represented. Much like current reverse-cameras in vehicles, the camera can capture wide/ultra-wide angles of 120-170 degrees. This lets you see everything without craning for parallax. Guidelines can be overlaid for curb/parking situations on demand. Additionally, many auto companies are already augmenting their backup cameras with 360-degree stitched top-down views, which are excellent for curb-centering, etc.

You can also curve mirrors for a wider angle, see it on trucks all the time.

The point is, switching to cameras has aerodynamic efficiencies. Mirrors are currently a necessary cost that cameras could replace to improve drag coefficients, improve fuel economy/range, etc. OP's concern was that the cameras would not provide sufficient substitution for the mirror's features. I'm arguing that wide field of view solves that problem.

If you are removing mirrors to improve aerodynamic efficiency that's the same as making a 1 gallon gas tank and saying the car will have better performance because it has a better power to weight ratio.

True in theory, but actual practicality near zero.

We aren't racing formula1 cars on the highway, so a mirror isn't really slowing you down that much and creating drag. Especially when you think about how much surface area it occupies versus the actual car itself.

This isn't well informed -- Mirrors are a substantial source of increased drag. Something like 5% of the air resistance of a vehicle comes from the outside mirrors -- over the life of a car, that's worth several hundred gallons of gas, and across the population of cars, several billions of dollars in savings to consumers. I fret about the longevity of the technical solutions (mirrors on cars from the 60s work as well today as they did when they were installed) but it could be a huge boon.

Wouldn’t removing the front mirrors cause helmholtz resonance[1], aka annoying “window drums”, when the front window is rolled down? If you’ve ever driven with only the rear windows down you’ll know what I’m talking about.

[1] https://jalopnik.com/why-do-slightly-opened-car-windows-make...

If you're doing that, you have introduced a far larger source of turbulence than the mirrors ever could produce.

If you're doing what? I don't follow

Driving with the windows down at freeway speeds.

On the contrary:

”They can account for as much as three to six percent of the total aerodynamic drag of a car. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. Over the course of 200,000 miles, that could cost you as much as $2,000. A study of big trucks (with really humongous mirrors) found they can add a whopping 10 percent to drag.“

(0) https://www.cartalk.com/blogs/staff-blog/what-drag-time-get-...

That's accounting for the higher end of the 3-6% drag. Also speed is critical, because the aerodynamic effect is exponential with speed so unless you are traveling above 80mph it's barely impacting anything. Sure if you are on the Autobahn it will be higher at 100mph+ but this is a bit of an optimistic guess on their part.

Also, these car mirrors after 200,000 miles will still work. I don't know if the car "video" mirrors will be operational after 200,000 miles so the cost of replacing them can easily out run the "fuel savings" that you would expect.

Lastly, there is something that car manufacturers lose when they move away from the physical world. The parallax effect is one that others have pointed out as a key benefit that would be lost, the fact that I can get a rain spot on my mirror and still see clearly, but if there is water on my rear parking camera I see nothing is something else that needs to be considered.

Progress is great, but at some point you realize you are actually degrading the experience not improving it. The Tesla has a great big iPad to control the car, but guess what, it is super distracting, because there are no physical knobs to touch so anytime you change a setting you are forced to look down. Because there are no physical knobs your finger can not rest on anything so as you are driving on the road any bump or jolt moves your finger which makes it much harder to hit the key you want. This leads to more distraction.

Just because you can doesn't always mean you should.

So could another camera in the car that watches the drivers head and adjusts the view based on movements. It could also be better too as you can now be comfortable and not contorted to get a proper view(even better than adjusting the mirror). It could also be disabled to provide a stead view. With a touch screen we could stay focused on a target too.

Camera's provide more options

Or on the passenger side mirror of any average passenger car made over the past half century or so:


> You can also curve mirrors for a wider angle, see it on trucks all the time.

Yes, but with a wide-angle lens camera you can convert to a less distorted view in software. Or stitch together with other views.

I drive buses for a living. Believe me, when reversing some 15 meter monster into a parking slot, I trust and use my mirrors more than I do the very fancy rear-view camera.

A mirror I have a lifetime experience worth of knowing what is, no perceivable extra layer of processing required. A camera, not quite so, although of course it's a nice enough extra to have.

Sure, mastering the basic controls should be the first step, before ceding control to augmented systems.

However, I have yet to see a mirror that will see behind the back bumper: this has already prevented a host of dangerous situations for me ("person was there, then went somewhere, where the heck are they, oh: for some reason admiring my back bumper and the pretty light that the reverse lights give out").

If "I have a lifetime of experience with this so thats how it should stay" was humanities criteria for accepting new technology we'd still be bashing the neighboring tribes heads in with rocks tied to sticks.

> A mirror I have a lifetime experience worth

Which nicely explains why young people don’t have the hang ups you have.

I recently rented a Peugeot SUV in France and the reverse top-down view was awesome - I had to back out of a 50ft (er, 15m) narrow winding driveway and the top-down helped me to do it in a minute instead of 15 min.

A fancy enough camera system can give you a wide FOV and accurate distance indicators to everything on screen.

Parallax is one way we estimate distances, technology can do a lot better than "move head side to side to get a rough idea."

Now getting people used to wide FOV, that may be challenging. Find an FPS that lets you set the FOV to anything you want, set it to 180. After a couple of minutes you can get used to it. Beyond 180 it is hard! But even 190 or so is doable after a bit of practice.

Not sure how the general public would do with that though! (At what point has a high enough % of the general public played FPSs that such a UI could be gotten away with?)

They could parallax though, so that doesn't seem like the best argument.

They could also use complex optics like "plain lens" with a "fish-eye border", or highlight obstacles by boosting colour contrast or adding in non-visual sensor data.

If cameras are that much better we should be getting vehicles that use both (which we do for rear-view but not side-mirrors AFAIK).

> They could parallax though, so that doesn't seem like the best argument.

I've never seen parallax emulated with head tracking that didn't have piss-poor latency issues. Not to mention poorly configured kalman filters that seem to always do too little or too much smoothing. These systems are fine for cute tech demos but don't belong in safety-critical applications involving multiple tons of steel moving at 100+km/h.

Before replacing mirrors in cars, why not start with making a TV "window" that actually works. Prove the technology in a real world application that isn't safety critical, then we can talk. If it's ready for use on highways, then it should be easy to mount a TV on a wall and provide a convincing experience of actually looking out a window.

This. A “transparent” A-pillar (the bit separating your windshield from driver’s side window) would be a good start, and if it worked well, it’s a feature I’d pay extra for.

Absolutely. Big thick A pillars have increased survivability in crashes (embedded airbags, stronger structure) but that doesn't come for free - they cause some accidents (hiding bikers, also cars when pulling out of junctions).

I'd love to see a transparent A pillar but I can imagine the parallax issues (talked about in other comments here) would make them a bit weird.

Volvo made a concept car with glass A pillars and no B pillars.


That was interesting, thanks. Good to see how much of its safety features are now common (blind spot assist, adaptive cruise control etc.) And, given this thread, amusing that the wikipedia article doesn't pick up on the A pillars.

I've never seen head tracking applications at all, and I'm not surprised that they're underwhelming, but I hope the state of practice gets better because it would be really cool to have an AR setup where metadata is projected onto the windshield and windows such that it lines up with the driver's perspective.

Imagine a thousand foot tall semi-transparent google maps pin, resting lightly on the head of the person you're picking up, visible for hundreds of miles but only to those who are interested.

The sci-fi tech I've wanted for years is a liquid crystal windshield that blacks out a small circle over the sun from the driver's perspective while leaving the rest of the windshield clear. Driving west in the evening or east in the morning, I wager a lot of people have had this idea at some point.

I have no idea if it will ever become feasible, but I sure hope it does.

This. Not just the sun, but more annoyingly, opposing headlights in the night. Technologies to avoid blinding opposing drivers are not adequate. We could do with technology to assist those who are on the affected side.

Material sciences could bring a solution:

Transparent material that becomes opaque to bright light (something like gamma < 1, gain < 1) in the direction of the light. So each point of the material is transparent or opaque depending on the viewing angle and respective directed light flow through it.

I think such a material could be engineered.

I've had the exact same thought. I expect it to happen eventually, or some other tech will render the issue moot.

There's a new Honda 'e', that doesn't have side mirrors at all, and just has two screens inside.


Honda has a video specifically on the camera mirror system, and mentions using a wider fov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Urf9JK5Szn8

Honda is awesome! The only other car manufacturer I would buy from beside them is probably Toyota. That being said... Please don't let them touch ANY of the software... The head unit in my car is a UI/UX disaster, if you try to use it in any capacity while driving its definitely worse then just texting and driving. The only saving grace of the Honda head unit is that they finally started implementing Android Auto in them. Also, the Lane Keep Assist and Anti-Collision features leave a lot to be desired.

Yikes. Terribly distracting controls and sounds like significant challenges with safety features (lane keep and anti-collision). What makes Honda "awesome", in your opinion? I'm wondering what is ranking higher than these safety concerns you mention?

I've owned a Plymouth Voyager, Toyota Tercel, Mercedes c280, Mercedes ml320, a Ford Focus, and a Jeep Wrangler in the past. Hands down the Honda is the most reliable and cheap to maintain car of any I have owned(other then perhaps the Toyota Tercel). My Honda Fit was $18,000 new and had features that were only standard on $25,000+ cars. Things like android auto, CVT transmission with flappy paddle shifters, moon roof, lane keep assist and anti-collision. Sure those systems have some problems, but I like still having them. I fully expect this car to last me 250,000+ miles.

I'm just over 100k miles on my 2015 fit, and I see it going about 100k more without any thing more than a tune up and new brakes.

Disappointing that Honda isn't bringing the E to the United States.

>If cameras are that much better we should be getting vehicles that use both (which we do for rear-view but not side-mirrors AFAIK).

The 2015 Honda CR-V has a camera under the right mirror. When you turn your right blinker on, the screen switches to that view with an overlay for car lengths. It's kinda handy, but I probably wouldn't pay much more marginally for that feature.

It's about being more likely to choose the CR-V because of the features, rather than paying more, I think.

I say it is time for a forward sideways-looking camera for exiting corners or sharp crossings. I do not know if this exists but I have missed it a number of times.

That reminds me of a small project where the British Army gave a budget to some soldiers to add "accessories" to a main battle tank - one of the things they did was add sideways looking cameras at the end of the main gun so they could use it to see round corners.

My 2013 Volvo can be fitted with exactly these as an original part by the dealer (it seems they were not available with the original order); the module is placed into the Volvo logo, and the driver sees a split image in the infotainment display.

But like the Audi A8 it's not exactly a cheap car; maybe it will be available in more cars in a few years (or once some patent expires?).

Edit: Here is a 52s video/ad for the feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkF9Txbeaxg

Audi A8 has it: https://youtu.be/TchqhDUbP8w?t=342

It's gonna be a long time before mainstream car adopt this though.

For my eye, Bose's suspension seemed smoother: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KPYIaks1UY

And it had Turbo-Boost (same video with cue-in): https://youtu.be/3KPYIaks1UY?t=81

> a long time

The Ford Edge has had the option since 2015. Looks like the Explorer got it the next year. The Subaru Ascent has it for 2019. I'm sure there are others that didn't come up in the first couple pages of my search results.

Oh dear. That must be my next car.

Unfortunately, it just cannot be...

Glad it is at least being researched. Thanks for the (very precise) link!

Get a BMW, here's a video from 2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfX1plunhAo

Or camera feeds on the road that the car can access, to allow the driver to see around corners ahead of them.

So many problems in such a small package! Security and privacy aside (sic!), I'm not convinced this would help safety: people are notoriously bad at interpreting images from multiple points of view in realtime.

I would say, what is also lacking are resolution, dynamic range, and latency. Regarding the latter, even if it's a closed circuit analog system with no digital buffering, there is still frame refresh to consider.

At night, if the display isn't dark enough, it will act as a light source, interfering with the driver's night vision. Black has to be black, and dark objects that would be visible with the naked eye via mirror had better be visible with the camera.

I'd assume this isn't really a problem these days? Aren't OLED screen capable of high resolution, dynamic range (include true black) and low latency?

The main issue would probably be cost, but at a technical level having a suitable screen for car mirrors shouldn't be a problem.

Yeah, throwing money at it could realistically bring this from just-around-the-corner FM to Actual Machines. Not quite there for COTS equipment yet, for cost-saving reasons (fast processing needs beefy HW, which is expensive in itself, needs higher and smoother power, cooling, etc.).

The point being that a camera could just film the entire surroundings and show you that picture, instead of exactly what you are able to see through the mirror reflection- i.e. you're constantly seeing your entire blind spot, not just the part the mirror is showing you for your head location.

Most new cars have parking sensors of some kind. Synthetic 360 vision camera systems are starting to become common on luxury cars and even available on some more down-market models...and those provide way more visibility than any mirror ever will.

which also gives you a much better sense of depth too as you move your head.

A mirror reflects a 3D image. An LCD screen isn't 3D.

Not only parallax, mirrors reflections are also 3D.

I'd be really concerned about failure modes here. Like with rear-view cameras, it's not uncommon in heavy snow for it to be obscured. That's not much of an issue when you still have traditional read-view & side-view mirrors to rely on.

So I can imagine cameras further supplementing mirrors, but not replacing them. At least not for human-driven cars. Self-driving cars are another issue, but I'm also willing to bet there's robust failure detection among sensors, lidar, and cameras, and the car would safely shutdown in the presence of an issue.

> I'd be really concerned about failure modes here.

I'm so happy failure is being addressed. Because to me (as a former engineer) this is one of the most important factors. In addition to failure due to snow, what about it just breaking? A small rock or crack is not going to greatly obscure a mirror's view. More annoying, but you can still get most information. A smaller lens does have the advantage of a smaller target area but more potential for complete failure. It is also more complex and with more complexity there are more modes of failure.

For example: I used to drive an old truck. The mirror adjustments just did not work, but I could manually move them. Dead simple and the purpose of the device is still achieved even when something broke in the device's chain. With a camera you have the screen (which can seriously affect your night vision! I'm EXTREMELY annoyed about this in my current car), every point of connection from screen to camera (software and hardware), the camera, and the lens. I'm under the impression that not much can go wrong here in the product chain and you still have a functioning device.

BUT the camera does have clear advantages! You can use IR so you can see at night. No glare. Better angles. Software that can do object detection and help you avoid accidents. It is a matter of trade off. Typically in machines that can easily lead to fatality we tend to me more risk adverse.

I see people driving around constantly with fogged up mirrors or have a broken mirror hanging off the side of their car, or snow packed around every window with only a small area cleared out on the windshield. So I'm not super convinced that failure modes are all that important, at least to your average driver.

Cadillac's camera based rear mirror and slides into a traditional mirror if needed:


The test driver in the video said it was probably that way for regulatory/safety reasons and sometimes needed when the sun is shining too brightly on the camera. But it's better if someone is sitting in the backseat as well as giving you a wider view than the rear window + mirror alone could.

> Like with rear-view cameras, it's not uncommon in heavy snow for it to be obscured.

In heavy snow, this can also happen to mirrors and your rear window. Usually you open the driver door so you can look behind you.

One of our cars doesn't have heated mirrors. It's not uncommon for the mirrors to be unusable during the winter, especially in the morning and after any amount of ice accumulation.

I use my scraper on them. It's very dangerous to drive without mirrors.

We can barely get people to clean the snow off their cars before driving on highways. Not sure the tech is the real problem with snow rain, and other weather.

When the ice is really glazed on, it's difficult to scrape it all off; and I'm nervous about damaging the linkage in the adjusting mechanism.

Thankfully, I finally have space in the garage that this winter it won't be an issue.

I guess you can have heated lens just like you have heated mirrors (I'm living in Brazil so I don't have this problem).

I like to use darker film in side windows, but it makes hard to use the side mirrors at night, I would love to replace them with cameras.

Things like night mode and anti-glare would be pretty cool as well.


Just drove a car with multiple sensors and cameras and it wouldn't stop freaking out in the rain. Even while parked in an empty lot. It also slammed the brakes automatically while I was driving. Scared the crap out of me so I immediately turned it off after that incident.

That can happen worse with mirrors in snow. They get frosted over and you can't see anything from any mirror.

Yeah let's not forget that mirrors are supplemental to begin with and already can fail. The failure mode is that you have to look around you more. As long as a manufacturer can't use this as an excuse to add more blind spots I don't see a huge difference.

They are so dang cheap now crucial cameras could be redundant.

I drive a lot in heavy snow. Mirrors have to be clean and unobstructed to work. During winter, before I get into my car in the morning, I have to clean the mirrors. The rear view mirror is often compromised by my rear window being gunked up, overwhelming the wiper.

So as for failure modes, nah, not terribly worried.

Even without snow, within a day or 2 of being washed, my RVC is unusable when there is any "above ambient" light source shining on it. During the day, that means the sun is anywhere in the 180 degrees behind my car and at night it means anyone has headlights pointed at me.

I'm waiting for someone to propose pointing cameras in all directions and replacing the windshield and windows with screens. It'd let them cut the amount of glass in the vehicle down dramatically, which could have both cost and safety benefits. And it would enable them to remove longstanding visibility issues like blind spots caused by structurally necessary pillars; if the view outside is synthetic, no reason why it couldn't be synthesized in such a way as to provide complete 360-degree visibility.

(Of course, the fight to prove that a car which is essentially a closed container is safe to operate would make the fight to just remove the side mirrors look like a schoolyard scrap.)

That is a cool idea, and the recent Mercedes-Benz S-class and others with what they call "360 camera" pretty much has more than enough camera to make this possible however in practice driving around with cameras is pretty awkward, even for parking despite the very cool "3d" effect, I found using mirrors for parking much more practical.


I'm thinking about installing a 360° aftermarket camera in my car. That's because I can't see where my front (esp. the front right side) is with any mirrors. Nose's too low to see the corners.

I've already brushed against other person's car in the dark and lost some sleep over that, waiting for them to contact me (thankfully, they weren't too much upset over it). A 360 camera is certainly not a replacement for mirrors, but looks like an awesome ability to have additional vision.

BTW, I wonder why no one places parking camera display in a way that requires driver to physically turn backwards and see the window as well. Even mirrors don't really provide a proper view, and it's inconvenient (if not unsafe) to turn back and forth.

Interesting concept. When combined with a self-driving car, you could drive through a particularly unpleasant neighborhood and instead look at views of whatever scenic trip you fancy.

> When combined with a self-driving car, you could drive through a particularly unpleasant neighborhood and instead look at views of whatever scenic trip you fancy.

This sounds awfully dystopian…

Not to mention nauseating—-you’d need some clever tricks to make the images match up with the car’s motion.

On trucks/vans rented at Home Depot cameras have already replaced rear view mirrors. The video screen was mounted in the standard rear view mirror position.

Personally, I loved the cameras.

Similarly, I’m able to park faster when I rent cars with cameras. Over the past few years, I’ve perceived that contemporary cars are designed with visual sight lines & ability to see the end of the trunk greatly reduced. Cars almost seem to assume a camera will be available.

Cameras are tremendously better at night, if night vision is available.

We recently got a van with a "360 camera" (the screen in the center console can display an image that appears to be coming from a camera 10ft/3m above the van). When I first heard it described I figured it was a gimmick I'd never use, but I've been very wrong about that. I'm able to park much more smoothly thanks to cameras (even something at simple as centering the vehicle in spot becomes much faster when you can look in one place, rather than back and forth between mirrors).

Oh, that finally shipped! I saw the Fujitsu chip set for that offered a few years ago.

There are many manufacturers of 360 degree car camera systems. They have been in vehicles for over a decade now.

It has been available on a ton of cars over the past half-decade. It's starting to become a standard feature now. Even the sub $16K Nissan Versa Note has it standard.

Infinity Q45 had it in 2010.

Some of the M series BMWs have this feature, it's amazing.

In this case it's a Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid. It gets ~30 miles on the battery which more than covers our around-town driving (we average 2,500 miles between fill ups), and it feels like driving a spaceship...

I would think a screen mounted in the standard rearview mirror position would be essentially unusable on the road (as opposed to parking) by anyone who needs reading glasses, as not even bifocal glasses or contact lenses would work with a screen in that position. it would seem one would need a display producing a distant virtual image, like a heads-up display.

"Over the past few years, I’ve perceived that contemporary cars are designed with visual sight lines & ability to see the end of the trunk greatly reduced. Cars almost seem to assume a camera will be available."

That design change preceded camera coverage. I believe you're looking at structural safety there. Making a car that can be collided with in almost any direction safely is not easy. Some window was lost.

In my small SUV, looking out the rear window at night is useless -- literally nothing you want to see is illuminated with the rear lights in a way that's visible out the rear window.

With the camera, on the other hand, the view is great.

These will break more often, and be expensive to fix; the result will be that lots of cars will be on the road without a rear-view.

If the automakers manage to put the camera inside the car body, it probably would be a lot less likely to break. It might even be cheaper to fix - a rear mirror assembly has quite some moving parts and need to be painted to match the car

digital cameras have far more moving parts than a rear view mirror assembly.

How so? A fixed wide focus camera doesn't really have any moving parts at all afaik.

Any small old bump might knock a wire loose.

You'd have to have a pretty large jolt to knock a mirror off its housing or mount.

Small old bump will never "knock a wire loose". This is serious industrial level equipment that must handle rain, snow and other shitty conditions including vibrations of a wide frequency range. And all that at least for the warranty period of a vehicle.

> And all that at least for the warranty period of a vehicle.

You got me till this point, and you prove we should be cautious about such tech. I live in one of the richest cities in the world (certainly one of most expensive), and the amount of 10+ year old cars is huge. Go to country side, and they become majority, with many clocking 15+ years.

For physical mirror to fail, you need to break it or completely lose it, and then its obvious whats the situation. Electronics have more components that can fail, and as an IT guy, I know what can will eventually fail (ie how many digital cameras work flawlessly after 10 years of daily use?). Last thing I need is to have an potentially unreliable critical safety feature in the car.

If health check of such systems is included in periodic maintenance events, there shouldn't be a problem at all.

I'm also not quite sure that good old mechanical cars fail less than modern vehicles supplied with lots of complicated electronic stuff.

I used to drive an old 1979 - that car had few electronic conveniences, but left me sitting on the side of the road more than once. It had also developed a problem where it couldn't idle for more than a few minutes because the engine would stall (mixture to rich, maybe?). My current oldest car is a 2003, it has electronic fuel injection, as well as a number of other electric conveniences - remote control mirror, power seat, cd changer, etc. I've only done routine maintenance and replaced a leaking engine seal, and that car has been 100% reliable and has never left me sit.

My much newer 2007 car has a lot more electronics (more airbags, automatic breaking, adaptive cruise control), but so far, still has had no problem, but it's only 3 years old (bought in 2016), so time will tell.

There are numerous studies that show that cars nowadays are dramatically more reliable, both in when and how they fail. There are always going to be maintenance parts but I really can't imagine that cameras are getting loose wires. Besides it's literally two screws and a clip to replace these. They are cheaper to replace than mirrors.

If the electrical wiring was shoddy enough to come unstuck with a minor road bump, I'd be more concerned about the rest of the wires in the ECU messing up, over a camera. This never happens

I wish modern cars never had electrical issues.

Just like the other thousands of wires in a car? Get real...

I spent about $400 to replace a side-view mirror that had stopped working, it was no longer adjustable.

The rear-view camera on our car is 3 years old and hasn't broken yet, but it took 7 years for the side mirror to stop working on the other car, so I guess time will tell, but the camera seems much simpler (and the camera doesn't need to stick out from the car like a traditional mirror so should be less prone to accidental breakage)

remember, with a broken camera mirror, you car won't even start ;)

I'm getting juicero flashbacks

I am very much concerned about focal accommodation. This becomes particularly important when driving at higher speeds. The sheer fact that my eyes do not need to adjust focus when looking into rear view mirrors (in comparison to cameras/screens) saves me critical milliseconds when overtaking a car or before making a turn.

Of course, this becomes irrelevant when we are talking about parking.

And, in addition, one can use one's stereoscopic vision with a mirror. Even if that does not provide much information about vehicle distance and speed (though it feels to me as though it does), a screen gives false stereoscopic information.

I feel like this is one of those "...and the Soviets just took a pencil" type moments. (even though that story of Americans paying millions to develop a space pen story is more nuanced: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-n...)

But given the number of times during snow season, where my backup camera is completely covered or requires me to clean it. I'd trust the mirrors quite a bit more. That said, I wouldn't mind both.

I have the opposite problem in that the backup camera is perfectly visible even when partially obscured and the mirrors become almost useless with ice particles, fog, and water droplets scattering my perception through them.

Why don't we ADD cameras where mirrors don't see before we start pulling out the mirrors that are working fine?

We should have around-view cameras for all cars by now, parking should be simple and we should never ever curb a rim.

I will say that mirrors are super high resolution, work in a variety of lighting conditions and have a big enough surface that a little dirt doesn't obscure everything.

Well, the motivation as identified in the article is aerodynamics. Side mirrors mess with that. So they would argue that side mirrors aren't "working fine", or rather there's an advantage to removing them.

Your argument seems to put aerodynamics and vision at equal priority, but I don't agree with that.

But I've been proven wrong. I thought people wouldn't buy a car without a dashboard in their line of sight and the model 3 is a top seller in spite of that.

I'm not making an argument. I was saying that they don't agree with your premise, that mirrors are working fine.

That's what Cadillac is doing. I don't see why not, the mirrors are really cheap and you could easily make them slide down over the screen if needed.

My Bolt has a camera rear-view mirror that can be turned on or left off in favor of the traditional mirror. We never use it. Turning the mirror into a screen means you have to focus on the screen rather than the distance when using it; that makes it slower and more uncomfortable to switch between looking forward and back. At least for geezers with older eyes like mine...

Came here to say that.

We Just bought a RAV4 with a camera as a central console rear view mirror witch you can flip on or off.

It sounds like a great idea but the amount of time it takes your eyes to refocus when moving from the road to the camera makes it a safety hazard. And painful on the eyes.

Nice concept. Fundamentally unusable.

No. We've seen touchscreens replacing knobs, marketed as the cool new thing but really it is done for cost reasons - touchscreens are getting incredibly cheaper and automotive grade rotary encoders, buttons, switches are getting more expensive as the demand is falling.

It is sad to see how adding more features is degrading cars. Stop fucking with things that work. I hate touchscreens except for my phone. That's the only place where it makes sense and it has worked well. I hate using an iPad and I hate literally anything that has a touchscreen. Old ATMs were so much better than this touchscreen bullshit.

Cameras instead of mirrors is how upper management wants to do cool things for the sake of doing cool things - aerodynamic efficiency takes a back seat where I have a risk of not being able to see things clearly, or if the camera breaks or if parallax becomes a problem.

Touch screens are terrible for what I will generalize as "machine control". Dangerous, really. It's a two part problem, first there's the touch screen itself and then the UI software.

When I was getting started in engineering I did a stint writing process management software where I worked. I was quite proud when I completed the project I was assigned by the VP of engineering. I had him come over to show off the completed project. I showed him all the features. Everything worked. I completed it on time and exactly per the specifications he gave me.

And then he took his hand and swiped across the computer keyboard back and forth like he was playing every note on a piano by pressing down and moving his hand all the way to the left and then all the way to the right.

He looked at me, smiled, and walked away. Didn't have to say a thing.

I won't describe what happened. Let's just say it broke. Had this been a controlling a real process --rather than a simulator-- it would have been a horrible mess.

It took me twice as long to redo the thing and make it fault tolerant, not just to user mishaps (drop a coffee cup, wrench, notebook or trip and press down with your entire hand on the keyboard) but also to sensor failures.

With one simple demonstration he taught me what school never did about software, hardware and the real world.

Touch screens are great tools, but you really have to think things through very carefully before using them as the only UI device. Bottom line: You should be able to close your eyes, place your hands on the touch screen and play it like a piano without anything bad happening.

Having designed lots of physical user interface control panels (knobs, buttons, etc.) I know exactly why people resort to touch screens: Designing control panels is very, very hard. You also have to think things through and do a lot of testing in order to be able to both deal with ergonomics, usage patterns, function availability and user cognitive load. With touch screens you design the control panel and then let the software gods sort it out. The process allows one to get to final hardware quicker while delaying all the hard UI work as much as possible.

I won't even get into the issue of touch screens creating greater cognitive load as well as requiring finer motor control, both things that are undesirable while driving or operating equipment that could cause physical harm or property damage.

My only question is: why? I mean, those are going to be so much more expensive to produce, less reliable and harder to replace. There are some upsides regarding overall visibility, but I think that it's one of those cases in which the ups don't make up for the downs.

Improved fuel economy, improved visibility (especially at night), blind spot coverage, better visual warnings. It isn't really going to be too much more expensive considering cars nowadays already have rear view cameras/screens and all sorts of sensors.

I'm not against all those cameras, nor am I rejecting evolution. I just think that traditional mirrors are doing the job well enough for this to be a question now.

Looking at the number of preventable accidents that happen daily, I don't think we are anywhere close to "well enough".

Is it safe to assume that you've never used a car with cameras? I'd be very interested in a camera feed from my front bumper when I'm pulling out on a difficult bend, for example.

I've never driven one without regular mirrors, which is the point here. I'm not saying that it's not a nice extra to have, but it shouldn't replace anything.

Why would a tiny digital camera be more expensive than an entire mirror assembly? My side mirror is full of servos but my backup camera is all solid state.

Costs are already roughly the same for side mirrors and cameras. It's almost all upside to replace side mirrors with cameras at this point.

Meanwhile, this same incompetent agency still does not allow manufacturers to use convex glass in lieu of flat glass for the driver's side mirror.


Can you legally install your own?

Probably! I mean, you can't get a ticket driving 100mph with no license plates in CA, so I'm not exactly worried about CHP whipping out a plane and measuring the curvature of my mirrors.

I haven't been able to source OEM euro driver's side mirrors for the Tesla, but I had them on my VW and have them on my BMWs.

That will depend on state law (I don't know what the answer is for any state though). FWIW, Virginia and California's mirror laws are very different in various ways.

This is one of those safety features with redundancy on mind that we could actually double down on it. Instead of replacing side mirrors with cameras how about we have cameras embedded in each mirror, let's say infrared/normal and night-vision so you could chose which camera to look at on screen or outside at the mirror for best assessment of your surroundings.

One thing I've seen in reviews of the system being sold in the Auto eTron is that it's much harder to get a good idea of speed and depth on the rear view camera screens. I really wonder whether this can really be overcome. It'll be interesting to see whether this will become as common as touch screens have become.

There is one thing missing. I have a child mirror on my back seat that I can see from my rear-view mirror. Kind of hard see that when the camera is pretty much looking at the outside.

Some vehicles have a camera pointed at the back seat for this reason.

Sounds like something out of price range, unless I DIY it.

When you are driving, you should be looking outside.

Awareness of what's going on inside your vehicle is also of some importance.

When you have a kid, they try to choke on their own fingers/toys/food, throw their drink/toys, or just generally be annoying.

While that is correct, removing the ability to easily look at what is going on in rear seat will make some people uneasy.

As a parent, it is in my experience much safer to be able to flip the rear view mirror into "night mode" and have a view of what the kids are arguing about than to have to turn back even momentarily to interact with them.

This is almost certainly the direction we're heading, for better or worse. "Safety" equipment has been driving a reduction in viability (along with many other factors) for awhile, and integrating more cameras around the car seems to be a simple/easy step forward.

Ideally they'll do this in a logical manner, which doesn't try to replace mirrors (at first anyway) and instead just integrates into them, to provide a more complete field of view. The current trend of "blind spot" monitoring systems seems to be following this kind of idea, and so far I haven't seen much to complain about there.

I had the pleasure of trying new all electric Q3 or something. It had cameras instead of windows and I did not like them at all

I felt that first the screen location was wrong. Outside the car is more where I am supposed to look anyway, instead of akward down from windows. I will have to concentrate more when looking at the screen, for my brain to register what is happening, instead of glance at the mirrow. Maybe it's to do with focal points, maybe it's still a screen. My eyes work better registering movement in the corner of my eyes on mirrows than on screens.

Sorry, but can you please clarify what you mean by "It had cameras instead of windows"? Do you mean the actual windows of the car were screens displaying camera feeds? That doesn't seem like a good idea. Googling doesn't bring up much for me here!

I'm not sure why there's so much negativity in the comments. Other than a lot of people commenting on the concept of cameras instead of what the FA is about: whether they should be allowed at all legally.

I really can't see why not.

Personally, I don't want it. Personally I think the reduced aerodynamic drag mentioned in other comments isn't a big deal. The highest number I saw on savings is $2000 on 200,000 miles. I'd think those cameras would probably need maintenance and replacement over that time which will come to a similar cost as the energy savings. But even if there was the full $2k in savings over 200,000 miles, I'd still not want it due to reliability and complexity of maintenance concerns.

The other comments against the tech mention challenging conditions for cameras, but these seem to forget those conditions can affect mirrors and windows too. It's all about the details of implementation (i.e. badly installed cameras are an issue, badly installed mirrors/windows/blindspots are an issue)

Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I think others shouldn't be able to prefer it that way. So I support legalizing this technology. I mean, it might even turn out better than a curmudgeon like me would anticipate. That's the beauty of freedom, ideas get to stand on their own merit.

Overall, the meat of the article IMO was this part:

"NHTSA’s 2017 tests of a prototype camera monitoring system found it was “generally usable” in most situations, and produced better-quality images than mirrors at dusk and dawn. It also found potential flaws, including displays that were too bright at night, distorted images and camera lenses that would become obscured by raindrops."

This seems like one of those things that'd be easier to reason about if the bigger picture weren't about to change (in this case, due to self-driving cars).

I mean, if not for self-driving cars, then we could reason that camera technology will ultimately progress to the point where it'd be vastly superior to traditional mirrors and culturally adopted, reducing this to a question of when/how to do the transition.

But with self-driving cars on the horizon, it's harder to justify revamping human driving techniques since the payoff period would be pretty short.

Which isn't to shoot down the idea; I mean, it sounds neat. Just, it's not as obviously justified as it would've been if we could've reasonably assumed that human-driven cars would still be a thing in 100 years from now.

Based on the current trend of corporations trying to log and monetize everything, it's not a far stretch to suppose that data from the cameras (and metadata e.g. GPS location) could end up being used for all sorts of things from affecting Insurance - both premiums and payouts, issuing fines for speeding, or parking in prohibited zones or for too long, or even targeted advertising because you happen to visit a particular store, restaurant or other attraction with any regularity.

Some Insurance companies already offer subsidies for "safe drivers" who consent to being tracked [0]... the rest is just natural progression.

[0]: https://www.rac.co.uk/insurance/black-box-insurance

False dichotomy - autonomous cars need cameras too, some of them with the same point of view of existing mirrors.

Yeah, we could make an argument for a hybrid system that provides cameras for human-drivers that might be later repurposed for autonomous-drivers.

I dunno how practical that might be, though. I mean, while I agree that mature self-driving technologies should be able to work with semi-arbitrary sensors, early self-driving systems -- the sort that'll tend to co-exist with human drivers -- would seem to benefit from purpose-specific camera systems, optimized for the benefit of the self-driving system without compromises/complexity to enable dual-use.

I hope this can fix one of my biggest problems driving at night, car beams reflecting off of the side mirrors and right into my eyes. Dimmable rear view mirrors are standard, but the side mirrors are still enough to tire out my eyes and make driving long hours at night much harder.

Amazing to see so many Luddites here on HN. Backup cameras have become standard and incredibly reliable on all new cars. Sure, snow can cover a camera, but as someone who has spent lots of time scraping ice off a side view mirror, a camera seems a lot simpler to clear debris from. Mirrors win from KISS, but KISS is not what sells cars. Safety, reliability, and performance do. If the automotive industry can make cameras as safe, reliable, and performant as mirrors, then the benefits will be obvious and the feature will win.

That's a lot of "if"s - there's the actual complaint, not "everyone who doesn't get on the bleeding edge of tech NOW is a Luddite!!!"

Had that car last week for a test drive and I really wondered when the cost of less air drag (while using more energy for display and processing) will break even. The camera mount is quite big..

These cameras will be connected to the internet to drive profit. They will be used for mass surveillance and they will be mass hacked.

Imagine waiting for a firmware update just so you can use the rearview mirror.

edit: also the title says "could", so it means they won't

Even moderately expensive cameras don’t have the dynamic range of the human eye. I almost had an accident because the backup camera on my car can’t see clearly when it is extremely bright even though it can see well when it is relatively dark. Current gen of cameras are no replacement for the human eye.

Cameras already do on some cars. I think it might be some Volvo SUV's that no longer have mirrors, but cameras in their place. (I'm not into SUVs so I didn't pay attention to the brand, but I've seen several at the airport when I put my car in the long term parking lot)

Self driving cars are the future. However, it may be a lot better transition (both to gain public trust and to improve the technology) to gradually make cars do more things and evolve the vehicle through incremental steps. This definitely is a logical next step.

Seems like a number of people here don't think cameras will be reliable enough (I am among them). Yes, lots of people think self driving cars are a possibility.

I don't. Humans currently have 7 nine's of reliability when driving. Are computers that reliable?

Love the side mirror camera on my Honda Civic (It's only on the right side but incredibly useful when changing lanes). I probably wouldn't completely replace the side mirrors with cameras yet though.

A wonderful idea! I actually find the icon that says "somebody is in your blind spot" is even more useful. I check that instinctively first now before looking at my mirror when merging.

Cameras all around and a VR helmet. I'm driving my invisible car.

The brightness issue is pretty big at night. Some people get headaches from headlights and other bright lights at night. I don't see a bunch of glowing displays working for them.

What is the trade-off between safety/functionality and aerodynamics? How would replacing car mirrors affect mileage in a typical vehicle, say a Honda Accord?

Bigger glass standoffs, hydrophobic coatings, heating, and positive air pressure curtains. All that worked well enough on airplanes.

On certain high-end sports cars, such as the McLaren Speedtail, haven't cameras already replaced side-view mirrors?

My Tucson has a rear parking camera ... what an awesome piece of kit ... would kill for an auto park feature as well.

I love the rear parking cameras. I do not like the idea of replacing a simple working system with more technology.

We will need that for the computer driver... so it is probably good to beta test on humans first.

This is an awesome idea but I got a better one. Replace steering wheels with a touch screen!

No. Absolutely not. Technology fails, and tends to fail at the worst possible moments. Dumb, analog stuff has a lot of advantages.

If you want to supplement actual mirrors, fine. But replacing them entirely is stupid.

Analog? We could probably drag optical fiber...

What could go wrong?

please stop turning cars into smartphones.

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