Side mirrors no longer required on cars in Japan. Is this a good idea?
According to Cleantechnica, Japanese authorities have made it legal for car manufacturers to eliminate side mirrors and replace them with cameras and video feeds. James Ayre writes:
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.
Eliminating side mirrors are estimated to improve fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent. They also are dangerous to cyclists when drivers pass too close, and are damaged easily. They add a lot of wind noise. The passenger side mirror has to be convex to take it all in, meaning that dinosaurs in the mirror are closer than they appear and people get confused. Elon Musk wanted to remove them on the Tesla, and the model X prototype had video cameras on the doors with displays inside, but the Feds in the States nixed it. However they are likely going away in Europe soon, as well.The New York Times tried out out a fancy BMW that cameras instead of mirrors:
We were in an exotic-looking BMW i8 sports car with tiny cameras on stalks instead of side mirrors. Together with a camera just above the rear window, the three views can be displayed on a high-resolution monitor that replaces the rearview mirror. A glance up gives the driver a picture of what is beside and behind the vehicle.
As a cyclist trying to avoid the door prize, I am always looking in drivers side mirrors to see if there is anyone in the car. I would be sorry to lose that, but on the other hand, electronics might do a better job of detecting me and sending a warning to the driver not to open their door. I like the idea that there is less of a chance of being clipped by a mirror, but on the other hand, drivers might feel comfortable passing even more closely.
But ultimately, I wonder about whether we are overly complicating things once again. Mirrors are simple and work forever (or at least until they fall off or get hit). They don’t rely on fancy electronics. They don’t cost very much. When they fell off my 27 year old Miata they were pretty easy to fix.
Getting rid of them makes some sense, but I worry it is adding yet another complication. What happens when they do break down? How long will people drive without the video working before they go to the shop? (broken or missing mirrors are pretty obvious.)
What do you think?