Nissan has come up with a way of improving outward visibility. The company has developed a product called the Smart Rearview Mirror that bolsters a traditional looking-glass with advanced electronics.
Engineers have outfitted a Rogue crossover vehicle with this system, which consists of a 1.2 megapixel wide-angle camera and a special LCD screen. Nissan spokesman Steve Diehlman said standard rear-view mirrors provide roughly a 17-degree sight line but, that this system here is a 48-degree field of vision.
Cleverly the camera is mounted inside the vehicle where it peers through the back window. In this location it’s free from dirt and weather, plus the wiper keeps the glass clean, another win. The Rogue’s four other imaging sensors, which provide video feeds for the Around View Monitor, are mounted outside where they’re exposed to nature. Additionally Diehlman said this camera provides “the same perspective you get from a regular rear-view mirror” because it’s mounted at essentially the same height.
Other automakers offer similar mirror-mounted screens, though they’re usually tied in with a vehicle’s backup sensors. You put it in reverse and a small video pops up in the rear-view mirror allowing you to see a bit of what’s behind you. Nissan has taken this idea one step farther by turning the entire mirror into a screen.
In normal driving, “It functions just like a regular mirror,” Diehlman said. But by flipping the dimmer switch you can activate the rear-mounted camera. The video feed is then displayed on the entire surface of the mirror giving the driver a broad field of vision.
To make it useful in as many situations as possible Diehlman said, “It auto dims and brightens,” noting that it can adjust in less than two seconds, which is ideal if you’re traveling through a tunnel on a sunny day. He also said, “Headlamp glare at night has been greatly minimized,” as has glare on the mirror’s surface.
Of course drivers can also manually adjust the screen’s brightness, plus they can tilt and zoom the image to get exactly the view they want.
This technology is ideal for situations where aft visibility is hampered. Headrests keep getting bigger and roof pillars fatter, when you throw tall passengers or bulky cargo into the mix your view of things out back can be completely cut off. The Smart Rearview Mirror would be ideal in vehicles like the GT-R or 370Z where sightlines are compromised. Of course Nissan’s NV commercial vans might be an even better application since some of them have no back glass at all.
A bundle of helium-filled balloons stuffed in the Rogue’s cargo area completely blocked rearward visibility; it was like trying to see through a brick wall at the bottom of a coal mine around midnight during the winter solstice. But a simple flick of the dimmer switched the rear-mounted camera on and broadcast an unobstructed, wide-angle image right to the mirror.
Of course you can keep it on while you’re driving, though it takes a little getting used to because there are no pillars or hatch components framing the image (or reflections of back-seat passengers), which is something most drivers are probably used to seeing. But after a few miles you adjust and really start to appreciate the unobstructed view.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Rogue vs. Honda CR-V
Another unexpected aspect of the Smart Rearview Mirror is that when the video screen is on, the image doesn’t change as you move the mirror, which at first is a little odd. If you want to make sure you don’t have any broccoli bits between your bicuspids you’ll have to switch the camera off.
Legislation, Confrontation and Availability
As with other electronic features you’d expect the government to throw its two cents in but surprisingly with this system Diehlman said Nissan doesn’t expect the technology to be hampered by government safety regulations. He mentioned that all kinds of regulations apply to exterior mirrors. Because of this he said that replacing them with cameras is a “much more difficult road to travel.”
As for availability Nissan plans to sell the Smart Rearview Mirror in the U.S. within two years. But it won’t be limited to high-end models. Diehlman said, “The goal is to have it offered across the whole line.” Presumably that spans the chasm between the Versa sedan and GT-R supercar.
Before this technology arrives in America it’s “going to be available in Japan this summer on X-Trail and Elgrand,” Diehlman said. Nissan is offering it as a dealer-installed option. It’s priced at 60,000 yen, which is just about $590. They decided to go this route instead of putting it in at the factory because it’s much simpler than making a running change on the assembly line.
For American customers pricing and availability of the Smart Rearview Mirror has not been announced at this time, but Diehlamn said the price will be very reasonable.
GALLERY: Nissan Smart Rearview mirror
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