Have you seen the statement “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear" printed on a vehicle side mirror? This was used to warn drivers after automotive mirrors had changed from flat to convex, reflecting images in a different way to a traditional mirror.
A convex mirror is a spherical reflecting surface in which its bulging side faces the source of light. It is often called a fish eye mirror. These mirrors expand the field of vision in order to give a wider view, however, at the same time the image is reflected smaller than the object, but gets larger as the object approaches. By the time its close, the image may appear even closer than it actually is.
This is just one way in which the mirror has been adapted over the years.
You may not realise, but the side mirror has evolved significantly since its introduction in the 1960s. For instance, heating elements have been placed behind the glass to clear it on cool mornings.
More recently, with the development of Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), small amber-lit icons are placed in the mirrors that flash to alert the driver not to change lanes as an object is still in the blind spot.
Cameras placed under the mirror are also commonplace in new cars today. They combine with front and rear cameras to give the driver a bird’s-eye view on the infotainment screen to aid parking.
Another use for a camera on the passenger’s side mirror is to project an image of the left lane onto the same info screen to aid in left turns so the driver can look out for approaching cyclists.
Audi’s new EV, the e-Tron, has done away with the traditional door mirror in favour of cameras.
The image is then displayed on small screens tucked into the corners of the driving cabin. This instantly improves vehicle aerodynamics, and thus improves fuel economy, potentially reducing emissions at the same time. Porsche has introduced a similar feature in an electric prototype called the Taycan.
However, some countries’ transport rules (including New Zealand’s) stipulate that a vehicle must have an external side mirror/mirrors, so there may be some rules that need to be changed before this feature is seen across the whole industry.
Rear view mirrors
They’ve not progressed quite as much as side mirrors, however, a lot of new cars now feature auto-dimming rear view mirrors.
Gone are the days where you’d have to manually flip the tab at the bottom of your mirror to prevent being dazzled by a car behind you.
Some cars even disable this feature when your car is in reverse, giving you maximum visibility.
Land Rover’s 2019 Range Rover Evoque showcases the company’s ClearSight technology. This uses a camera positioned on the roof which enables the driver to use either a conventional rear view mirror, or switch to a virtual mirror if something is obstructing the view.
A number of cars now also have a compass display built into the rear view mirror, allowing you to identify which way you’re travelling at a glance.
This is purely a cosmetic comfort and convenience feature. Small LEDs have been added under some vehicle mirrors that illuminate the path beside the car to help you avoid stepping in a puddle, or anything else nasty, when entering or exiting your vehicle.
This is also an opportunity for manufacturers to get creative by projecting their brand’s badge onto the ground – the Ford Mustang and Jaguar E-Pace are some of the coolest examples we’ve seen so far at the AA.