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Nissan makes the rear view mirror smarter

Kamil Kaluski September 11, 2017 All Things Hoon 21 Comments

In more than 100 years just about each and every component of the automobile has somehow evolved and improved. One notable exception is the rear view mirror. Each new car still gets three mirrors that do a decent job of telling us what is behind us. These mirrors are not perfect as there are blind-spots and we frequently get blinded by morons driving behind us with their high-beams on. Sure, there are blind-spot detectors and dimming mirrors but the fundamental principle has not changed. 

An LCD monitor in a rear view mirror is nothing new, either. My seven year old Toyota has a reverse camera screen in the rear-view mirror and countless vehicles have embedded compasses there. But Nissan now introduced an inside rear-view mirror with an LCD screen that projects what the mirror should allow the driver to see to begin with, while driving forward. 

Why did that take so long?

Modern cars, especially SUVs, are big. Each new model is bigger than its previous version. Roof strength standards, headrest standards, costs, and styling designs have made all windows smaller. Rear visibility has suffered dramatically because of that. Take any modern three-row SUV, pop in a handful of passengers, and the driver cannot see what is behind his/her vehicle. 

The visibility issue magnifies when one’s vehicle is filled with stuff, which we all have more and more of. Because stuff. Watch George Carlin’s Stuff speech just because he was brilliant. It gets much worse when there is a trailer connected to your vehicle, because you have to move more stuff. 

Nissan’s new Intelligent Rear View Mirror (I-RVM) attempts to alleviate those low visibility pains. With a press of a switch on the mirror an LCD screen comes on. That screen is connected to a narrow-angle camera in the back of the vehicle, one with a 4:1 aspect ratio, to properly display on the long and narrow mirror. The screen was developed such that it can be used day and night and provide minimal glare from either the moron driving behind you with high-beams on or the screen itself. 

Currently the mirror is only available on the loaded 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum. I do hope that it eventually makes it to other vehicles, too. Visibility is a serious safety problem on most vehicles and modern camera technology offers great solutions for it. The only reason why automakers still add mirrors on their vehicles, in my opinion, is because they have to. 49 CFR 571.111 – Standard No. 111; Rear visibility simply says that each vehicle must have two side mirrors and an interior mirror, and there is no getting around it for now. 

In my research for this article, I learned that Cadillac has had a similar mirror in their CT6 last year. Unfortunately Cadillac does not seem to care if I know anything about their vehicles and this has slipped by me. Ford offers no such thing but the camera system in the new F-250 is quite amazing and it allows for a wireless camera to be attached to the back of trailer and use the infotainment screen as its display. 

All other automakers use rear view cameras for reversing. Many automakers, and Nissan/Infiniti was one of the first, use a system of cameras to create a surround top-view of the car but that too is only used in low speeds or while reversing. The inside rear-view mirror in this Armada, and I guess the CT6, is the first to use an LCD screen while moving forward. This is a simple and effective solution to an age old problem. 

  • Victor

    You mentioned the Ford F-250 camera system. Super Duty is the first Ford vehicle to offer up to seven cameras, three of which are used in Trailer Reverse Guidance. These cameras function as more than just digital rearview mirrors:
    Tailgate camera tracks the motion of a conventional trailer to help coach drivers as they back up
    Two side-view cameras shift the view of the trailer as its angle changes
    First-ever factory-available customer-placed camera can be attached to the back of a trailer to improve visibility while backing up
    Center high-mounted stop lamp camera provides visibility into the cargo box with a Ford-first dynamic guideline, especially useful for easier hook-up of gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers

    • Alff

      yay

    • Do you work for Ford?

      • Victor

        No sir , Fords work for me.

  • dead_elvis, inc.

    TIL that the Nissan Armada is still a thing! Can’t remember the last time I saw one.

    • It’s actually a new model as of last yeast, essentially a less expensive and better looking Infiniti QX80.

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Pretty low threshold to pass.

  • Alff

    It’s safer, I get it. I detest the circumstances that have lead to it but I get it.

  • I_Borgward

    Factory cameras tied in to a vehicle’s electronics would seem like a nifty way to enable some data logging on citizens as they drive. But, I mean, it’s not like anyone would ever do that, right?

  • A Peck

    CTS6 camera in action. https://youtu.be/Od4CRHbvVkk?t=28

  • It seems that everybody overlooks one principal advantage that mirrors have over screens – you don’t have to adjust your focus to look in them. Glancing in a mirror 18-inches from your head will be a lot more pleasant than focusing on a high-def screen placed there.

    The other advantage – and I’m talking more about when they try to replace exterior mirrors with cameras here – with mirrors you can change the view you get by moving your eyes to see in the mirrors from a different angle. With a screen you’re stuck looking at whatever the camera is trained at. Sure, you can move the camera, but not instantly and instinctively like you can in a mirror.

    I see what they’re trying to achieve here, and it’s good. But the actual fundamental concept of the mirror deserves rather more credit than it gets. It should be among the very last bits of a car to be reinvented.

    • Vairship

      Plus, mirrors rarely fail, and when they do are cheap to replace. Cameras and screens are more finicky, and 3rd/4th owners won’t pay to fix them. Meaning more behemoths careening around with no idea about what’s happening around them.

  • cap’n fast

    some day, when pigs in hell are grounded for ice on their wings we will have to have daylight quality HUDs or helmet/visor/goggles mounted cameras/video/freaking holograms in our faces. when was the last time you had any electronic system in your car fail at some inopportune moment? ask a Benz pilot what their thoughts were when the instrument cluster goes dark/titsup at night.
    any time i am backing, my head is turned so as to directly view where i am going. always physically look before changing lanes. didn’t see them in the mirror? car filled with balloons? you got a problem. hit someone while backing/changing lanes because they weren’t in view of the camera systems then you have a really big problem. lawyers love this crap.
    here is something to ponder. autonomous automobiles. where is the liability going to sit when it runs into someone? I would really like to know that answer. laws being written by lawyers so only lawyers understand what is written is holy writ. i am always hearing the expression “tort reform” and usually hear it after the proles figure out what the law actually says.
    bottom line is what insurance company would be crazy enough to insure an fully autonomous automobile. what if no one was riding in it and there was an accident involving a “people”? how do you sue a machine? making the owner liable negates any advantage in owning one. What? making the manufacturer liable would be the same. if i lose my butt on the first lawsuit that comes along, why would i bother building them in the first place.
    oh. i can see this going well in California.

    • Vastly decreased crash rate + no fault insurance.
      The problem will only get simpler.

      • cap’n fast

        knowing more than my fair share of odd people who now look at autonomous cars as a challenge, i have heard the most excellent plan yet. see one parked, block it in and take the bus. problem solved. public transportation gets a big boost win win win…as simple as it could get.
        no fault insurance is here now and it has not helped to reduce the crash rate or the costs of insurance. when has your insurance cost gone down and if it did with what insurance company are you doing business with?
        decreased crash rate is a fine goal. only everyone will have to be in a autonomous car/pickup/van/OTR truck/bus/train/etc. have you never heard of electronics systems failure? how about sensors degraded by dirt or environmental factors. aircraft have auto land and cruise systems. they don’t have mud in the sky(usually) and they still crash. can’t get me on an Airbus.
        then there is going to be the person who at the last second figures they know better than the auto systems that some thing bad is going to happen right before the auto system saves their butt and they will try it manually at the wrong time. probably while texting/reading/sleeping/eating/boozing/having wild and crazy sex in traffic because they can-(like i said, really odd people) all of which i have observed on the road now.
        so, NO, i simply cannot see any advantage to it unless everyone is into it and if that is it than take the bus because that is about as autonomous as it is actually likely to get.

        • Thing is, autonomous cars are going to be the public transportation:
          – from exactly where you are
          – to exactly where you want to go
          – on your schedule
          – using existing infrastructure
          And I doubt there will be manual control any more than you can take over a taxi, bus, or subway.
          Edit: Maybe a stop button, like a train or bus.

          Wherever you live, that’s where the worst drivers are.
          And that’s all they have to beat.

          • cap’n fast

            OOOOOOOoooooo………… dark thoughts….very dark thoughts

  • crank_case
  • dukeisduke

    But it still has a flip lever for dimming it. WTH?

  • Rudy™

    I keep thinking this is yet another distracting gadget that drivers will mess with. And I also agree on the eye focus issue. I would need my reading glasses to see anything but a blur in that mirror. That certainly can’t be safe.

    Poor idea, Nissan.

    • cap’n fast

      agreed. interferes with the mascara application whilst cruising in the left lane of I-5.