End of the road for rearview mirror?

January 9, 2016
Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show showed how electronic cameras on a vehicle can give a driver a better view than conv
Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show showed how electronic cameras on a vehicle can give a driver a better view than conventional mirrors, eliminating blind spots which can lead to accidents

With forward-looking car technology, the rearview mirror as we know it may soon become a thing of the past.

Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show showed how electronic cameras on a vehicle can give a driver a better view than conventional mirrors, eliminating which can lead to accidents.

BMW showed its system in which small cameras replace mirrors and offer an electronic display, allowing drivers to get three separate images or a single panoramic view.

According to BMW, this means a driver can look ahead and won't need to turn his or her head to see side mirrors—which have been removed and replaced with small cameras.

French equipment maker Valeo meanwhile offered its "Sightstream" system which uses cameras as well but maintains on each side of the car.

The Valeo system offers a less dramatic change than BMW, so drivers who are accustomed to looking right and left don't have to change their habits.

Both companies say their systems offer several advantages: a more complete view of the landscape and better vision at night. And they will avoid problems of side mirrors which get fogged up or covered with rain.

The systems offer a better aerodynamic profile for the car, which can reduce fuel consumption.

None of these systems are in cars yet, but looking ahead, cameras seem to be the wave of the future.

General Motors said the inside mirror in its Bolt electric car, to be introduced soon, will be able to connect to a , eliminating the problem of a view blocked by passengers or tall objects in the back seat.

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Eikka
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 09, 2016
Both companies say their systems offer several advantages: a more complete view of the landscape and better vision at night. And they will avoid problems of side mirrors which get fogged up or covered with rain.


A digital camera-viewfinder systems however adds a noticeable processing lag in the tens and hundreds of milliseconds which is disorienting to look at because the motion of the scenery in front doesn't match the motion of the view back. A typical buffering delay of 50-300 ms also means things appear considerably out of sync with reality.

And the framerate gets worse in the dark because of the longer integration time necessary to get a bright noise free picture. If the car's been sitting outside in the cold, the LCD displays also get sluggish and blurry.

And the small eye of a camera is more easily obscured by an errant splash of mud, or simply frozen over with ice.

It's again technology made with California or Italy in mind, not New York or Oslo.
ab3a
5 / 5 (6) Jan 09, 2016
Yeah, that's great until the camera gets road spray, dust, or condensation on it. The nice thing about mirrors is that you can easily wipe them off the left wing mirror, just by rolling down the window. Mirrors are stone simple and easy to work with. They don't depend upon any wiring, displays, or even a working electric system.

I'll take the mirrors any day.
Eikka
4.5 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016
Mirrors are stone simple and easy to work with.


And you also don't need to change focus to look close at a monitor, because the objects in the mirror are actually in the distance. Takes less time to fix your eyes back on the road ahead.

Focusing your eyes close up also causes things in the distance go double vision because you're crossing your eyes, which means you're less able to react to other things while you're looking at the monitor instead of the mirror.
ab3a
4.8 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016
I drive a pickup truck with a rear view camera on the tailgate. I also drive a full size van with an aftermarket rear view camera in addition to a half moon reflector.

Both cameras are handy when they work. For example, the pickup's camera can display the hitch behind the truck making backing to a trailer a piece of cake. I don't need someone outside to help.

They also work pretty well in low light. However, they're very susceptible to dirt, and road spray. I use these cameras as a quick check to gauge precisely where the back of the vehicle is when coupling to a trailer, but that's pretty much all they're good for.
TehDog
4.5 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016

@Eikka

"A typical buffering delay of 50-300 ms also means things appear considerably out of sync with reality."

Well yes, but I'd expect an integrated system using custom ASICs to achieve somewhat better than that.

"And the framerate gets worse in the dark because of the longer integration time necessary to get a bright noise free picture."

Wouldn't that depend on the camera? It might be sensitive down to IR?

"If the car's been sitting outside in the cold, the LCD displays also get sluggish and blurry."

This isn't the 90's...

@ab3a

"I'll take the mirrors any day."

TBH, so would I, for now, but times change :)
Eikka
1.5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
Well yes, but I'd expect an integrated system using custom ASICs to achieve somewhat better than that.


They'll also have to use custom cameras and customs displays then, because the camera's image goes through several framebuffers on the camera, in the car's internal network bus, and on the display itself.

For a 60 Hz video feed, each buffer delays the image by 17 ms even when the processing delay is zero. 50 ms is pretty much guaranteed.

This isn't the 90's...


LCDs are still subject to the laws of physics even in 2016. It takes a while for the backlight to warm the liquid crystals to the point where they'd start to move.

Wouldn't that depend on the camera? It might be sensitive down to IR?


Not far enough into the IR to see without an infrared lamp pointing backwards. They're sensitive to near-IR, but the lenses can't focus both IR and visible light on the same image plane. The picture turns blurry, so the IR is usually filtered out.
Eikka
2.5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
There are of course superachromat lenses made out of special fluorite glass, that can focus both infrared and visible light simultaneously, so you don't need an active focus adjustment on the camera. Trouble is they cost thousands of dollars.

The other way to solve the same issue is to have a small sensor with essentially a pinhole for a lens, like a camera phone sensor, but then the sensitivity will be poor and the image turns out noisy due to the amplification.

Then there's also the issue that a mirror gives you the benefit of binocular depth vision, whereas a display in the dash doesn't. That's why rear view cams often have the diagonal lines superimposed to give some reference of depth.
bluehigh
4 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2016
Yeah, that's great until the camera gets road spray, dust, or condensation on it.


Little wipers and demister for the camera?

foolspoo
5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2016
The proud and prideful today...
tear88
5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2016
Replacing rear-view mirrors with cameras would at least resolve one problem; the idiotic design choices by automotive designers that make it so difficult to see behind you, with fat pillars, tiny windows, and the window line rising up to the roofline. Or they could go back to older designs that let you see out the darned rear.
I'd also like to see side-view mirrors eliminated, because it seems like a really dumb idea to put up those little sails that increase drag. But I'm also curious as to whether a fiber optic image conduit would be feasible for side mirrors, with a decent image being built up from a line against the body.
Shakescene21
4.5 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2016
I doubt that cameras will displace rear-view mirrors until cars are self-driving. A self-driving car would rely on cameras, such as the 360-degree camera that Google has mounted on the roof.
rrrander
not rated yet Jan 10, 2016
At least 1/2 the price of a car today is due to useless add-ons and safety devices. This just allows them to replace $50 mirrors with $500 electronics. It has also added hugely to weight. My first Mustang in 1988 weighed 3100lbs. A new one of the same kind is 3650lbs.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Jan 10, 2016
Bad idea...

I was T-boned on a bright, frosty morning when a driver reversed a high-end SUV out, trusting the dashboard CCTV.

Problem was the very low sun angle plus frost-sparkle had dazzled the camera, left the display a wash of white...

Had the driver used wing and internal mirrors or, even better, *looked around*, my little car would have been so obvious.

FWIW, while shopping for previous car, I sat in a show-room's nice hatch-back. To my astonishment, neither its mirrors nor windows let me see an enormous SUV displayed a few feet off the rear-wing. I made the sales-man sit in, look around. He confirmed my findings, got out white with shock. The longer 'estate' version had a neat window instead of a too-fat pillar. It lacked the hatch-back's huge blind-spot, so that's what I got...

Incidentally, such 'blind angles' leave a car vulnerable at 'constant convergence' junctions; if your 'spidey sense' doesn't spot the danger so you look about, you're road-kill...
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jan 10, 2016
For lack of better metaphor, it's simply an attempt to re-invent the (subsequently - more expensive) wheel...
Just my opinion...
ab3a
5 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2016
Little wipers and demister for the camera?

It's just another thing to go wrong. Think of all the things that have to go right for a camera to work properly. Mirrors are basically simple. As long as humans continue to drive cars, I will continue to advocate the use of mirrors.
ab3a
not rated yet Jan 10, 2016
As for how to set up these cameras, yes, they could have lens cleaner systems. But I wouldn't bet my life on a reservoir of washer fluid.
Abhay
5 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2016
I would like to see periscope instead of camera. Bring the view from rear to the dashboard using mirrors.
May be weird thought but I am armchair inventor :-)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2016
A digital camera-viewfinder systems however adds a noticeable processing lag in the tens and hundreds of milliseconds

Riiiight...as if maneovering via camera was impossible. (Hint: there are people flying drones with cameras on top at high speed through the woods. If you rely on tens of milliseconds for your reaction (which is way below your reaction time) you're sunk, anyhow.

But I wouldn't bet my life on a reservoir of washer fluid.

It's in the responsibility ofa driver to keep his vehicle operational. And fluid reservoir sensors aren't exactly rocket tech. If you do your regular check ups you need never worry at all about any fluids (except gas).

Think of all the things that have to go right for a camera to work properly.

Look at the MTBF of such a system. It's like parking systems (which also come with cameras nowadays). If the MTBF is longer than the lifetime of the car - so what?
Angus Clarke
not rated yet Jan 11, 2016
photo is of a side view mirror.
FainAvis
not rated yet Jan 11, 2016
But nothing can go wrong... go wrong .. go wrong go!!!
Eikka
2 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
If you rely on tens of milliseconds for your reaction (which is way below your reaction time) you're sunk, anyhow.


The main point was that the view you can see with your eyes towards the front is moving at a different time from the view to the back. In other words, when the car turns slightly, the same motion is reflected in the rear view a hundred milliseconds later, and that is massively disorienting - as if the entire world was wobbling around you.

It's completely different to a drone pilot who is basically ignoring everything that goes on around his viewfinder, whereas the car driver is also looking forwards with their peripherial vision while they're looking at the mirror or the monitor.

100 ms at 100 kph is 2.7 meters, so the location of an another car when it finally appears in your monitor is almost a car's lenght in the wrong place. That might look like there's an opening to merge into, when in reality there isn't.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2016
The main point was that the view you can see with your eyes towards the front is moving at a different time from the view to the back.

Display lag is (at worst) in the region of 70ms
https://en.wikipe...play_lag

It's completely different to a drone pilot who is basically ignoring everything that goes around his viewfinder.

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

If it were an issue then these guys would crash a lot more often
https://www.youtu...0t5kPf6E
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2016
If the MTBF is longer than the lifetime of the car - so what?


The MTBF is typically defined as the time until half the units have failed. The MTBF has to be -considerably- longer than the lifetime of the car because there will be a number of duds well before that.

For example, the MTBF of a typical laptop is around 6 years based on individual component specifications to 50,000 hours. Yet, the average laptop has a empirical 22% failure rate by year three.

It's pretty hard to make a digital camera that would not break in 20 years, which is the typical useful life of a car - especially when it has to operate in such a demanding envinronment full of vibration and moisture, cold and hot. A color LCD monitor doesn't stand a chance.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
Display lag is (at worst) in the region of 70ms


Which is in the range I specified.

It's due to the fact that the display has to have at least double buffering to stop the picture from tearing. While one picture is being displayed, another is stored in memory, and another incomplete picture is being written to memory. Then, if there's any re-scaling or frequency interpolation going on, a third and a fourth frame buffer is required.

And you also have frame buffering and processing delays in the camera, and a latency in the CAN bus in between the camera and the display, which all adds up.

If it were an issue then these guys would crash a lot more often


In the car mirror case you are watching two realities happening at different points in time - one through the windshield ahead and another through the "mirror" behind, and switching between them, which is a completely different thing to a drone pilot flying through VR goggles.

It's apples to oranges.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
Of course, Anti-alias, 20 years is a long time for a car in Germany, where the insurances and fees for older cars rise steeply to benefit the car-makers and force people to buy new cars sooner.

The average age of a car in Germany is 8.6 years, whereas the EU average is 9.65 which makes for a perspective error, because Germans drive considerably newer cars that haven't had the time to break down so much.

That is, the average age, not the average lifetime. The avearge includes cars that may be 40-50 years old. In poorer countries the average is 11-15 years because they're still driving cars from the 70's in numbers.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
Good point, Eikka. My daily driver is a 1996 Honda and all three mirrors are still working perfectly. I probably couldn't have said that with rear-view cameras.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2016
Good point, Eikka. My daily driver is a 1996 Honda and all three mirrors are still working perfectly. I probably couldn't have said that with rear-view cameras.


That's also the reason why I look at the current Teslas and other high-end cars with a console full of computers and 20" touch-screen monitors and go "Yeah right".

5-10 years down the road, the zebra strip of that monitor has rattled loose and made a few rows of dead pixels, and the touchscreen doesn't work anymore, and the navigator-entertainment-system OS is obsolete anyways, so it's time to just rip the whole thing out and replace it with something more modern...

...oops, but you can't because it's integrated in the car and not a replaceable unit. Time to buy a new car. Exactly as designed.
LED Guy
4 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
@Eikka,

If you rely on tens of milliseconds for your reaction (which is way below your reaction time) you're sunk, anyhow.


100 ms at 100 kph is 2.7 meters, so the location of an another car when it finally appears in your monitor is almost a car's lenght in the wrong place. That might look like there's an opening to merge into, when in reality there isn't.


Your math and assumptions are incorrect. If a car appears in your rear view mirror when you are travelling at 100 kph, then it will be travelling in the same direction at approximately the same speed. Its position relative to the ground might be off by 2.7 meters, but not its position relative to you. On the other hand, if it is travelling in the opposite direction then errors in position are not relevant as it is moving away from you and does not pose a threat.
LED Guy
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
If the MTBF is longer than the lifetime of the car - so what?

-snip-
For example, the MTBF of a typical laptop is around 6 years based on individual component specifications to 50,000 hours. Yet, the average laptop has a empirical 22% failure rate by year three.

It's pretty hard to make a digital camera that would not break in 20 years, which is the typical useful life of a car - especially when it has to operate in such a demanding envinronment full of vibration and moisture, cold and hot. A color LCD monitor doesn't stand a chance.


Operating lifetime of cars is a lot shorter than most people would believe. Consider a car lasts for 250,000 miles (15-20 years for typical driving) - at an average driving speed of 25 mph, the operating life works out to 10,000 hours. That's less than 14 months operating 24/7. City driving average speed runs 20-25 mph and highway driving average 40+ mph.
LED Guy
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016

And the framerate gets worse in the dark because of the longer integration time necessary to get a bright noise free picture. If the car's been sitting outside in the cold, the LCD displays also get sluggish and blurry.

And the small eye of a camera is more easily obscured by an errant splash of mud, or simply frozen over with ice.


A mirror won't give you a bright image at night, so why would a camera need to do the same? If something is approaching you from behind at night then it has lights on it or you would have trouble seeing it even in a mirror. Since cars aren't equipped with rear faces spot lights, I would hazard a guess that it isn't a requirement and long integration times aren't required.

Cameras can also be positioned inside behind a rear windshield wiper. If your back windshield is coated with mud or dust then your rear view mirror is useless anyways.
LED Guy
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
LCDs are still subject to the laws of physics even in 2016. It takes a while for the backlight to warm the liquid crystals to the point where they'd start to move.


You're right, this isn't the 90's. Self heating displays aren't really complicated.

AAAANNNDDDDD since it is 2016, whose to say that displays will be LCD? OLED TV displays were already available in retail stores last year and the price premium has been dropping fast. Within a few years most of your smart phone displays will be OLED and you should expect all displays in the long term to be OLED.
LED Guy
not rated yet Jan 11, 2016
I sense the presence of engineers . . . After working in technology for 25 years I have noticed that most engineers are only able to see and focus on problems and not benefits when someone proposes something different.

The irony of bringing up issues with shifting focus (near vs far) is delightful as there seem to be issues changing focus from problems to benefits or solutions . . .
LED Guy
not rated yet Jan 11, 2016
Of course, Anti-alias, 20 years is a long time for a car in Germany, where the insurances and fees for older cars rise steeply to benefit the car-makers and force people to buy new cars sooner.

The average age of a car in Germany is 8.6 years, whereas the EU average is 9.65 which makes for a perspective error, because Germans drive considerably newer cars that haven't had the time to break down so much.

That is, the average age, not the average lifetime. The avearge includes cars that may be 40-50 years old. In poorer countries the average is 11-15 years because they're still driving cars from the 70's in numbers.


Drivers in "poorer" countries always buy cars with all the options/luxuries - lol.

40-50 year old cars were designed to run on leaded gas, have carburetors, a manual transmission and probably won't have air conditioning or even catalytic converters. They also won't have ABS which is standard on most cars produced today.
antigoracle
3 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2016
"A typical buffering delay of 50-300 ms also means things appear considerably out of sync with reality."

Caution, objects in "mirror" may not appear for....
barakn
not rated yet Jan 11, 2016
I I have noticed that most engineers are only able to see and focus on problems and not benefits when someone proposes something different.

...said the captain of the Good Ship Hindenberg.

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