North Americans look to camera-based mirrors

News

Two North American companies — advanced electronics supplier Gentex Corp. and body structures and power technologies supplier Magna International — want to claim a stake in advanced driver-assistance systems by putting a modern twist on the century-old rearview mirror.

Both companies last week showed rearview mirrors that can switch from a traditional reflection to a panoramic live video display.

So-called camera monitoring systems are an emerging technology that some see as an eventual replacement for mirrors, but they are not entirely welcome in North America yet. The Gentex and Magna systems offer a compromise.

Some European and Asian countries allow camera monitoring systems to replace traditional rearview mirrors. But safety regulations in the U.S. and Canada require vehicles to have an inside mirror, as well as an outside driver-side mirror, to complement a camera system.

Regulators in North America “take a very conservative approach to changes for devices that are safety-related,” Brad Bosma, Gentex vice president of vision systems, told Automotive News.

Using a hybrid approach, with a mirror that doubles as a digital display, allows automakers to offer state-of-the art vision technology while still complying with safety standards globally.

The Gentex Full Display Mirror uses three cameras and can stitch together views of the rear and sides of the vehicle.

Magna’s Clearview system consists of two mirrors. The first is an inside mirror that, like Gentex’s, can switch to video display mode. Outside, there’s a sideview mirror with a camera mounted on it that sends a video feed to a screen inside the car, on the A-pillar. It can be installed on the driver or passenger side. The camera is mounted beyond the widest point of the vehicle to eliminate blind spots.

Magna also has a version of the technology, called the Clearview Camera Wing, that is only compliant in Europe and Japan.

It eliminates the outside mirror entirely in favor of a camera feed to the video screen.

Vehicles without outside mirrors are still very rare. The first production vehicles with an exterior camera monitoring system are the Japanese-market version of the 2019 Lexus ES 300h sedan and the European version of the 2019 Audi e-tron crossover, which uses technology from Spanish supplier Ficosa Corp.

Honda will incorporate an exterior camera monitoring system in the 2021 e electric car.

Magna’s Clearview technology is not in series production yet. Gentex says its Full Display Mirror is available on 27 models from five automakers and that the company is in talks with other automakers exploring camera monitoring systems.

“Over the years, we’ve been acquiring the technology necessary to get us to this point. We’re somewhat at a tipping point where we’re beginning to see that this display and camera solution can be a reality,” Craig Piersma, Gentex director of marketing, said. “However, there are considerations that not everybody is thinking about. There are pros and cons to mirrors. There are pros and cons to displays.”

Camera monitoring systems can also send images to a car’s infotainment screen, as demonstrated in the Around View Monitor backup camera technology in the Nissan Rogue Sport.

Magna Chief Technology Officer Swamy Kotagiri said advanced driver-assistance features will become even more significant for suppliers such as Magna moving forward.

As for what the future holds, Gentex conducted consumer research on the latest digital mirror technologies in collaboration with Kempten University in Germany.

It found that drivers appreciate an expanded field of view and acclimate quickly to using a display. Drivers rated the Full Display Mirror as having a better or much better field of view compared with a standard mirror.

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