Aug 26, 2016

    No more mirrors in future cars?


    JAPANESE automobile and parts manufacturers are developing "mirrorless vehicles" that use cameras and monitors instead of traditional rearview and side mirrors.

    Last month, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry lifted a ban on designing and manufacturing mirrorless vehicles.

    Actual sales are expected to start around 2018 but hurdles regarding safety and other areas still need to be cleared.

    In a mirrorless car, cameras replace the side mirrors and the driver uses monitors inside the car to make safety checks.

    The rearview mirror is replaced with a monitor, which shows images taken by a camera at the back of the vehicle.

    The absence of side mirrors will likely reduce air resistance and improve fuel efficiency.

    At night and in bad weather, image processing software could help increase visibility.

    Major domestic and foreign auto parts makers have taken the lead in developing the necessary technology.

    French firm Valeo is moving forward on developments made using an experimental vehicle in Japan, and plans to start mass production of parts for mirrorless cars in 2018.

    Shizuoka-based Murakami Corp, a leading manufacturer of rearview mirrors, has also developed a system of cameras and monitors.

    Makers such as Toyota and Nissan have revealed prototype cars, and are discussing their designs and other plans with parts makers and others to put the ideas into practical use.

    Steps also need to be taken so that drivers accustomed to side mirrors do not get flustered. "We can't just replace the mirrors with cameras. We need to find ways to support safe driving," said Shoji Akiyama, a director at Valeo Japan.

    For example, one automaker is considering a function that would allow a vehicle to accelerate if the car behind it looked like it was about to cause a rear-end collision.

    Equipping vehicles with cameras and monitors "would increase the sales price of a regular car by at least 100,000 yen (S$1,350)," an employee of a major automaker said.