Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is the end of the car mirror coming?

For many years we are now used to look into our mirrors in our car before we overtake, change lanes or park. We are trained to do so, it was a key element of the car driving exams we had to go through. Interestingly, vintage cars in the early 20iest century didn't have mirrors at all. And it was until the 70ies outside mirrors to become a standard. I can even remember the time when you had to pay extra money for the second (passenger side) mirror. Just as an example the passenger side mirror for a 1987 Mercedes 300 SL (R107) was in the price list for DM 119.70 (roughly 60 Euros). The mirrors also got more and more clever and got for example darker when strong lights were approaching from the back. The also could be electrically adjusted and you could even store their position with a "memory" system. Depending on the driver they readjusted magically.
The outside mirrors though come with a significant disadvantage. They influence aerodynamics in a negative way, increase the drag factor and the overall size of the car. That's why mirrors look quite different today compared to what we were used in the 80ies for example. So there are good reasons to make them very small and in many of the prototypes presented these days they are replaced by small cameras and a display in the car. There are other innovations that help to make driving more secure, for example radar systems that help to prevent the blind spot, making the mirrors less important. So it could well be that future cars won't have outside mirrors any more. It will take some time to adapt to the new systems though. If you have ever swapped from left hand driven cars to right hand driven cars you know what I mean. If the mirror isn't where you expect it you always look to the wrong corner.

1 comment:

Sebastian Wohlrapp said...

In most standard cars today, the mirrors also are the widest parts of the car, which if directly visible to the driver help a lot maneuvering the car in narrow situations. Loosing this indicator will require not only cameras to replace the mirroring function but also some sort of side PDC to compensate this secondary function.