BMW i8 Mirrorless Camera CES-01

Automakers have been toying with the mirror replacement idea for a while. BMW showcased its i8 with Mirrorless Camera technology at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, while Audi used a rear-view camera for its R18 World Endurance Championship (WEC) racers.

Legislation is often the either biggest hurdle or greatest enabler of new technology, and now Japanese carmakers may have its best boost yet; Japan has approved the use of camera technology to replace mirrors on road-going cars.

The benefits of mirror-replacing cameras are twofold – cameras are compact enough to provide an often better field of vision than conventional mirrors, while doing away with the need for relatively large mirror enclosures which also offers more design possibilities from an aesthetics standpoint.

Ichikoh Industries of Japan, which primarily make lighting and mirrors for cars, and Robert Bosch GmbH of Germany, which produce automotive electronics, are amongst suppliers who are best positioned to benefit from this legislative change.

BMW i8 Mirrorless Camera CES-10

“Our job is to improve the visibility of the drive, with lighting and mirrors, but now also with cameras,” said Ichikoh CEO Ali Ordoobadi. “There is a switch of technology, a kind of rupture. It’s a really new segment with higher content, and that means higher revenue opportunities. This is the trend, and we have to be in front of the others.”

“The UN regulations have standards that clearly determine high-performance specifications. Until now, camera monitors haven’t been introduced to replace mirrors because they didn’t have sufficient visibility,” said Tetsuya Saito, section chief on engineering policy at Japan’s Road Transport Bureau.

Japan’s transport regulators changed the rules to allow mirrorless cars from June 17. Ichikoh’s first product to take advantage of this change is the Smart Rear View Mirror; a mirror that functions both as a normal mirror, and with a switch, becomes a live video feed of the vehicle’s rear view.

According to Automotive News, this has entered production on June 28 for a customer identified only as a Japanese carmaker with plans to use the video monitor in a midrange, low-volume model.