Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Tesla Wants To Eliminate Side Mirrors

August 25th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Gas2
by Christopher DeMorro

Elon Musk’s big idea for the 21st century is the electric car, which he thinks can save the world (and make his investors a tidy profit to boot). Musk has gone and created a car that is, by every indication, one of the best-built cars in the world without exception. But Musk isn’t done yet, as he presses forward with another change to the way cars are built; the elimination of side mirrors.

You might remember that when Musk debuted the Tesla Model X SUV, it had several features of note like the “falcon-wing” doors and the absence of side mirrors. Instead of the traditional wing-like mirror  jutting out into the air, the Model X used small video cameras built into the doors with display cameras on the inside. This drastically improved the aerodynamics of the Model X, but also broke Federal safety regulations.

As such, when the Tesla Model X reappeared at the Detroit Auto Show, it did so with side mirrors now attached. While Federal regulations requiring the addition of back-up cameras to cars was slated to go into effect this year, lawmakers have pushed that law back to 2015. That means Tesla has time to lobby lawmakers to rewrite the law to allow for the option of eliminating side mirrors and replacing them with video cameras.

Getting rid of side mirrors could really streamline cars and improve aerodynamics at a time when fuel economy and performance are increasingly important. Some estimates say that by just getting rid of side mirrors, aerodynamics could improve as much as 5% overall. Cars like the Volkswagen XL1 have also eliminated side mirrors for efficiency, but Tesla is the only company really pushing for legislation changes. For such a small piece of the car, that’s a lot of efficiency to be gained.It’s surprising larger automakers haven’t pushed such an initiative forward before.

Leave it to Elon, I guess.

Source: Automotive News

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  • Wayne Williamson

    I’ve been wonder for years why this hasn’t happened…good to see them doing this…

  • Ronald Brakels

    Where I am we only need one sideview mirror to be street legal, so I can solve half the problem with a hacksaw. Another option to cut down on sideview mirror crossection is to use an optical periscope so the image appears on a mirror inside the car, but it’s not a perfect solution.

  • I’ve been running with video mirrors for over four years now:

    They work better than optical mirrors in some situations (rain, dusk in particular) and not as well as optical mirrors in bright sunshine. Shading the monitors from glare would help somewhat.

    There are no blind spots, but judging distance is similar to the convex mirror on the passenger side. Both monitors are in one place (in my installation) so I only have to look in one place to see all around my car.


  • mk1313

    I’ll disagree with Elon on this one though I think overall Tesla is doing fantastic. Electronics fail, mirrors don’t!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Mirrors certainly do fail. You’ve never had a mirror knocked off or had to stop and realign a mirror?

      • mk1313

        knocked off, no. had to stop to realign, no (I check before starting to move). Last I looked there is no such thing as a “mean time between failure” for a mirror but all electronics have them. There is a difference between failure and damage!

        • Bob_Wallace

          Losing a mirror happens. I’ve lost at least three. The inside mirror on my pickup came unglued from the windshield and fell off. Snow took off an outside mirror. And I can remember at least one which was broken, likely to someone hitting it while parked.

          Getting in and then realigning is the same as stopping to realign. It still is a case in which your mirror “failed” and had to be adjusted.

          OTOH, I’ve never had an electronics failure in a vehicle (outside of burned out bulbs and charging system issues).

          • mk1313

            No, readjusting the mirror because my wife, who is much shorter, was the last driver is not a failure. The unglued would be a failure of the glue not the mirror (though that’s splitting hairs) your other 2 examples are damage. I’ve had numerous sensor failures in cars from oxygen sensors to inertial sensors to gas tank levels to the main computer going to windshield washer motors failing to electronic fuel injectors sticking open (which seized a motor) etc. Failure is it stops working with no proximate cause whereas damage has a proximate cause eg, the someone hitting it in the parking lot. Electronics will fail far more often than a mirror. Damage is something else entirely!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, you successfully defined away all mirror failures as “non-failures”.

            Feel free to crown yourself champion of whatever it was you were competing for….. ;o)

          • mk1313

            That was my point, mirrors don’t fail whereas electronics do. You are correct in that both can be damaged and thus be non-functional but mirrors don’t just stop working like electronics, which is why they should be kept. That said the video camera’s would be a great addition. Test drove an iMEV with it and the computer was able to overlay the exact position of the bumper and alignment of the car. A great add on but I’d still want the mirrors just in case.

          • Bob_Wallace

            When I look out my driver’s side window and the mirror is missing there has been a failure of some sort.

            I am unable to see if there is a car in that non-existent mirror.

            You might not think that a mirror failure, but it certainly looks that way to me.

          • mk1313

            See lightbulb example above to understand the difference.

          • Bob_Wallace


  • Garn

    Ok, what is wrong with you people?!?! I come here to read an
    article, then turn to the comments section expecting a lot of people to be
    bickering back and forth and insulting each other. Instead what do I get…?
    People having an intelligent and thoughtful dialect… Come on now, you are
    making the comment sections worth something by having these types of discussions!
    🙂 (I was truly happy to see such a good discussion and intelligent thoughts being discussed!) Thanks everyone! That is how most comments sections should be used. Nothing wrong with negative comments, as long as they are constructive and accurate.

    Have a great day everyone!


    • Bob_Wallace

      We’ll try harder.

      Shove it, Garn!!! (That better? ;o)

    • Garn

      Much better! Thanks Bob!
      I can’t believe I even had to point this out to get a decent response from someone.

  • Bob_Wallace

    An advantage to a video display over mirrors is that the driver wouldn’t get blinded by headlights in the mirror.

  • Windshield can be ‘inoperable’ too. We added defog/wipers/cleaning to deal with that. Rear view camera’s could do that too (and automatically).

    What I do doubt is their performance in the dark and dealing with the high contrast (headlights vs. the vehicle/road itself). Also in a a true mirror you can perceive depth. I am not sure if I would like it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What depth cues are present in a mirror that are not present in a video display?

      With video there is the option of using wavelengths outside the visual range.

      There’s also the option of using radar to identify objects and displaying them symbolically on the screen.

      In fact, the entire lane change process could be reduced to a “don’t do that” flashing light. Or put a nice big X on the right or left hand side of the screen when there is a vehicle present in that lane. Make it flash if either the signal light is engaged or the wheel rotated a certain distance. Throw in a warning sound.

      And if all else fails, have the head rest deliver a dope slap….

      • NotThatGreg

        “What depth cues are present in a mirror and not in a camera” .., Binocular vision, i.e. depth parallax. Most of what you see in a mirror, you see with both eyes, since your eyes are about 3″ apart and most car mirrors are at least twice that wide.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m going to bet that neither convergence or retinal disparity get much play when checking the mirror to see if there’s a car off your fender.

          Your brain probably jumps right to relative size and super-position. If more information is needed then there’s the “Can you see the whites of the driver’s eyes?”…..

    • anuran

      CCD video cameras would actually perform better in the dark if they amplified the available light or used frequencies in the near infrared.

      I am not sure what “depth cues” you are talking about in a mirror that you don’t get from a camera. Old-fashioned side mirrors require you to move your head and refocus from infinity to a foot and a half. And the head-check requires you to move your head further and completely re-orient, sometimes actually moving your torso.

    • Omega Centauri

      The one complaint I can’t make about the Prius rearview optics is inability to see in low light conditions. The camara seems to be more sensitive than the human eye.

  • Benjamin Nead

    One of the features found on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 computer, which was developed as a low cost device for Third World children a few years ago, was a screen that was completely anti-glare in direct sunlight. It’s the invention of Mary Lou Jepsen, who has since gone on to develop similar screens for IBM laptops . . .

    I have one of these little XO-1 computers and that feature works very well. It goes to grayscale in anti-glare mode, but this is far better than not being able to see anything at all . . . and, potentially, a lifesaver.

    The glare problem is real on current generation console displays found in cars with rear view cameras. This screen technology could fix that.

  • JamesWimberley

    Formula 1 car racing still insists on mirrors. Racing cars would be the obvious place to try out the technology. You can get rid of the blind spots with cameras and a good semi-fisheye display, so in principle you could have a more functional system, not just a more economical one.

  • Shiggity

    In addition to camera mounting, this is also a key point of the car in which to use LIDAR / sensors for self driving functionality. That will come later.

    A camera system also paves the way for a heads up display interface.

  • Omega Centauri

    My experience with having Prius backup camera is that under certain lighting situations they aren’t usable. They would have to do a better job with the lenses (reducing glare from a dirty lense), and the display (works when you are wearing sunglasses, and the sun in coming in at an awkward angle). It may not be easy to insure these things are usable 100% of the time.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Those seem to be fixable issues. Lenses could be cleaned with a squirt of water. Displays mounted in a way that they aren’t hit by direct sunlight. Even a movable shade if necessary, much like your pull down windshield shades.

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