Automakers have for decades been teasing features in concept cars that never make it into the real world, but now one such feature — side mirror cameras — is making it into production on the recently redesigned 2019 Lexus ES.
2019 Lexus ES is the first production car to get digital mirrors
Concept cars at auto shows have showcased this technology since at least the 1980s. However, cost concerns and regulatory hurdles have slowed the commercial release of the technology. Now when the 2019 Lexus ES goes on sale in Japan next month, it will have side mirror cameras.
“The digital mirrors will make their debut on the new ES, which will go on sale in late October,” Lexus said in a press release.
The side mirror cameras are fitted on narrow stalks where one usually finds conventional side-view mirrors. Two five-inch screens are placed on both corners of the dashboard to show what the camera side mirrors are seeing. These cameras provide a constant feed to the screens inside.
Why only for Japan?
For now, this camera technology appears to be exclusive to Japan. Lexus says it will offer the side mirror cameras in Japan only for the time being. At about $40,000, the 2019 Lexus ES will make its U.S. debut this month, but with conventional side-view mirrors. In the U.S., side mirror cameras are still not legal, although they are legal in Europe.
Going forward, we can expect the technology to be available globally. In fact, Audi has plans to add the same technology in its E-Tron electric crossover, a prototype of which was displayed earlier this year. Audi is working to bring the technology to Europe later this month. The automaker intends to introduce the technology in the U.S. as well, but regulations need to be changed for that. The Audi E-Tron is speculated to debut in the U.S. sometime next year.
Even the original concept version of the Tesla Model X featured cameras in place of the exterior mirrors. However, Tesla dropped the idea from the production version due to the same regulatory issues.
The Japanese government adopted rules allowing cars to have cameras in place of mirrors in 2016. Germany’s Robert Bosch and Japan’s Ichikoh Industries are two suppliers actively working on the technology. In 2016, Ichikoh predicted that 29% or about 2.3 million Japanese vehicles will feature video monitors as interior mirrors by 2023. Ichikoh, which is working with France’s Valeo, plans to launch its monitor systems in the U.S. and Europe.
How cameras on side mirrors are be better
One big reason automakers are pushing for cameras on side mirrors is to improve aerodynamics. Removing the traditional side mirrors and replacing them with something smaller creates less drag, leading to better fuel economy. There are other benefits as well, like how cameras will keep raindrops and snow from accumulating on mirrors.
Using cameras will also lead to less wind noise, something that will complement silent electric cars. According to Lexus, using cameras also leads to better visibility on a turn signal and better rear vision as well.
“The system automatically enhances the corresponding area―left, right or behind―when the turn signals are activated, or when the transmission is put into reverse,” the automaker says.
The narrow-profile side mirror cameras also ensure the driver’s view is not blocked. Further, these cameras are made to weather rain and snow and give a clear view even in adverse weather conditions. The screen is designed to alert the driver with a blind-spot-warning icon. Drivers can also manually adjust the settings based on their comfort. For night driving, the camera uses image enhancement to brighten the picture and enable drivers to see more and clearer than standard glass mirrors in the dark.
Lexus’s first luxury yacht
Lexus has also unveiled its first luxury yacht, the LY 650. The luxury yacht measures 65.5 feet and is based on the Lexus Sport Yacht Concept, which was showcased previously. Lexus’ yacht also uses the company’s design language L-finesse, which we have seen in its LS sedan, LX SUV and LC coupé.
This first production luxury yacht from the Japanese automaker is 18.8 feet wide and comes with three staterooms, three heads (toilets) and six sleeping rooms. Lexus’ yacht is expected to debut globally sometime next year.