Nissan's Smart Rearview Mirror flaunts the law
Nissan has debuted a new rear view mirror system that utilizes cameras to enhance the view behind the car. The system is very intelligent and aptly named the Smart Rearview and is on display for demonstrations at the New York International Auto Show right now.
So what is this system and how does it circumvent outdated U.S. law?
The mirror itself is a combination of a standard rear view mirror, of the size required by federal law in a vehicle the size of the new 2014 Nissan Rogue (in which it's been fitted for demonstration) and a rear-facing camera specially-mounted to mimic the view the mirror normally gives the driver when properly positioned. The mirror can be used in either of two modes: regular mirror and enhanced camera mirror.
As a regular mirror, it's no different than any other rear view mirror positioned at the center of the vehicle so the driver can see through the back window. As an enhanced mirror, however, the hidden LCD that makes up the mirror's glass activates and replaces the mirror surface with a view from the rear-facing camera mounted near the top of the back glass, positioned to give the same view the mirror would give were it merely reflecting.
The whole thing, as well as some of its advanced technologies for better view, is explained in this two and a half minute video from Nissan.
So how does this flaunt U.S. law?
Simple. In a classic case of finding a solution despite outdated regulation, Nissan's Smart Rearview complies with current federal requirements yet still offers the advanced technology they're after.
Current NHTSA law for automotive manufacture requires that mirrors of specific sizes and magnification be placed within vehicles at specific points: namely one on either door, where we're used to seeing the side mirrors, and one at the top-center of the windscreen (where the rear view mirror normally is). Automakers have been lobbying to have this law changed for some time now, hoping to replace those mirrors with camera systems that are cheaper, less prone to breakage, and, more importantly, more conducive to slipstream aerodynamics for better fuel economy. So far, regulators haven't budged.
Obstacles don't have to be overcome, they can be side-stepped. Thus Nissan has decided to go around the regulations instead of through them.
The funny thing is, the United States isn't the only country whose regulations are out of date and blocking the implementation of rear view cameras that replace mirrors. Europe has the same issue, as do some parts of Asia. Nissan's workaround is getting around the laws of all of those jurisdictions.
This system is the obvious next step in the move from assist systems like radar and parking cameras and should be an obvious use of rear backup cameras that are already so ubiquitous on today's production vehicles (and that will be mandated in the next few years). It's brilliant.