Outside Car Mirrors Could Become Extinct

Audi and Mercedes-Benz are among the automakers that believe they will be able persuade legislators in key global markets that side mirrors need to be replaced by cameras to make future models more aerodynamic, which will boost fuel efficiency.

Audi showed its vision of the solution with the battery-powered e-tron Quattro concept that debuted at the Frankfurt show.

The production version of the e-tron Quattro, due in 2018, will feature the same foldaway cameras seen on the concept, said Audi r&d boss Ulrich Hackenberg at the show last month.

“The legal authorities are very interested because it’s a safety feature,” said the executive, who has since been suspended from his post, according to reports, for his alleged role in parent Volkswagen Group diesel-emission crisis.

Audi’s idea is to manipulate the pictures sent back to the cameras to draw the driver’s attention to dangers on either side of the car.

Eliminating side mirrors also would help automakers meet another challenge: reducing vehicle emissions because less drag means better fuel economy.

The compact-sized e-tron Quattro concept has a drag coefficient of 0.25, which is excellent for an SUV, largely because of its lack of side mirrors and its extended rear diffuser, Hackenberg said.

Mercedes-Benz showed its interest in eliminating the side mirrors with the ultra-sleek Concept IAA four-door coupe, which has cameras hidden in vents behind the front wheels. The pictures from the cameras are displayed on side-by-side screens situated where a conventional internal rearview mirror would sit.

Automakers will emphasize to policymakers that the cameras are safer than side mirrors. Manufacturers also argue that legislators need to provide some flexibility if they want them to meet tougher CO2 targets. The side mirror might be a casualty in that drive for greater efficiency.

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