Are car mirrors going the way of the dinosaur?

Side view mirror
pabkov/123RF.com
The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line 108 years ago in Detroit, and since then, nearly every component of the automobile has gone through a dramatic evolution. Engines are more powerful and efficient, bodies are more aerodynamic, and modern cars feature electronics systems that would make the Apollo 11 crew green with envy. But there’s still one part that’s remained relatively unchanged, so much so that many automakers are considering replacing it altogether. The element in question? The good old-fashioned car mirror.

At CES 2016, BMW introduced the i8 Mirrorless concept, which uses cameras and in-car displays to replace conventional rear and side-view mirrors. By stitching the footage together, the technology grants the occupants a panoramic, unobstructed view of their surroundings, which increases awareness, safety, and even convenience as they never have to be adjusted. And by eliminating the bulky housings on the side of the car — the i8 uses slick wing-shaped mounts to hold the cameras — the vehicle becomes quieter and more fuel efficient as well.

BMW’s Senior VP of Electronics, Elmar Frickensteinis, recently hinted to German outlet Focus that the i8’s camera tech could show up in a production vehicle by 2019, and the brand is not alone. Both Nissan and Tesla have experimented with similar systems in recent years, and Cadillac’s Rear Camera Mirror will make its debut on the 2016 CT6, which arrives in dealerships this March.

I recently had the chance to test the big Caddy in Los Angeles, and while I can’t dish out drive impressions until January 26, I found the Rear Camera Mirror fascinating. The wide viewing angle and high-def picture make freeway merging and parking much easier, and you no longer have to worry about obstructed views from tall passengers or luggage. Better yet, if you’d prefer to do it the conventional way (or you just need to fix your hair), simply flip a switch on the bottom and the display becomes a normal auto-dimming mirror again. It really is that easy.

Cadillac Rear Camera Mirror
Cadillac Rear Camera Mirror

Thankfully, the Rear Camera Mirror won’t be relegated solely to range-topping luxury vehicles, as the system will show up in the 2017 Chevy Bolt, 2017 Cadillac XT5, and presumably many other GM products in the future. After experiencing the technology firsthand, it seems like a no-brainer addition, especially when you consider the possibility of integration with driver assist systems like rear-cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

Are car mirrors really headed for the scrapyard, though? Not just yet, as they will continue to have their place in the entry-level automotive space for some time. But as systems like backup cameras begin to proliferate across automaker ranges, it’s easy to envision a future where reflective glass is left behind. If I’ve learned one thing about this industry over the years, it’s that when it gets its hands on a new piece of tech, it rarely looks back.

Cars

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.
Cars

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.
Cars

Cadillac is finally ready to take on Tesla with its own electric car

At the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, Cadillac announced plans for its first electric car. The unnamed model will be a crossover, based on a new platform to be shared with other General Motors brands.
Cars

2020 XT6 three-row crossover is a Cadillac for families

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 crossover launches General Motors' luxury brand into territory already dominated by the likes of Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Cars

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
News

Ford has a plan to future-proof the hot-selling F-150 pickup truck

Worried about the threat of rising gas prices, Ford will add the F-150 to its growing portfolio of electrified vehicles. It is currently developing a hybrid F-150, and it will release an electric version of the next-generation truck.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang-inspired electric crossover will spawn a Lincoln luxury version

Lincoln will get its own version of parent Ford's first mass-market, long-range electric vehicle. While Ford's version will have styling inspired by the Mustang, Lincoln will take a more traditional approach.
Home Theater

Spotify adds simplified Car View mode for Android users

What was once just a test is now a reality: Spotify is rolling out a new, simplified in-car user interface for all Android users called Car View, which automatically engages when the app detects a car Bluetooth connection.
Cars

Boutique carmaker Karma Automotive, legendary design firm Pininfarina team up

Karma Automotive is partnering with legendary Italian design firm Pininfarina on future luxury cars. The first product of that partnership will appear later this year, Karma said, without offering other details.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.
Cars

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.