Last month, the relevant authorities in Japan went ahead and made it legal for auto manufacturers to forgo the use of side mirrors and instead rely on high-quality cameras and video feeds as a means of providing an awareness of the vehicle’s surroundings.
The move is an important one, as side mirrors are responsible for a great deal of air drag at high speeds — their removal will allow for the easy reduction of drag coefficients, and thus greatly improved fuel (or battery-charge) economy.
In other words, the removal of side mirrors (legal as of June 17th in Japan) will allow for cheaper electric vehicles (EVs) with improved single-charge ranges.
So, why haven’t they been removed until now (and not as of yet in the US and Europe)? Depending on your persuasion, a couple of options are 1) as a result technological limitations or 2) as a result of the inertia of bureaucracy.
With the approval in Japan of mirrorless cars, we’ll know soon enough which is closer to the truth…. If there really are issues with the switch to video feeds and away from physical mirrors, it should become apparent fairly quickly. Personally, though, I’m skeptical that there’ll be any major issues with the transition.
Commenting on the shift, the section chief on engineering policy at Japan’s Road Transport Bureau, Tetsuya Saito, stated that it was mostly down to recent video quality improvements.
“The UN regulations have standards that clearly determine high-performance specs,” he stated. “Until now, camera monitors haven’t been introduced to replace mirrors because they didn’t have sufficient visibility.”
Expectations are that the European Union may legalize mirrorless vehicles later this year, and that the US and China may do so in, or after, 2018.
Interesting news. Hopefully the Japan move will speed up the legalization of mirrorless vehicles in the US. That’s certainly something that a great many auto manufacturers, including Tesla Motors (which was fighting to remove mirror requirements years ago), would be happy about.