Could Dash Cams Replace Your Rear View Mirror?
Although blind spots are a well-known source of accidents on American roads, the rear and side-view mirrors of large commercial vehicles have seen very few technological improvements over the decades. Just about every piece of safety equipment in the modern car, such as seat belts, airbags, and braking systems, have seen tremendous advances. So, why do mirrors on today’s vehicles still function mainly the same as they did on the first mass-produced car—the Model-T?
While front-facing dash cameras have been the norm for years, many vehicle manufacturers are discovering that mounting additional video cameras on the rear and side of their vehicles can significantly improve safety and assist drivers. And not only can they be used in tandem with other ADAS systems, but they might replace the traditional mirror for good.
Global leaders in the automotive industry, such as Toyota, are planning to replace external mirrors with in-vehicle camera systems altogether. This change could reduce wind resistance and increase the aerodynamics of a vehicle. And with less drag on the car from external mirrors, fuel efficiency could rise slightly. In theory, this would help reduce overall fuel consumption.
This, of course, has yet to be proven, but it makes a compelling argument—especially to an industry in which profit margins are strongly tied to fuel costs. It also seems that manufacturers of automotive cameras have arrived at the same conclusions as Toyota and are beginning to experiment with this technology on the commercial level.
Using fleet vehicle camera systems instead of traditional mirrors would also create the opportunity to use Augmented Reality (AR) to make drivers more aware of their surroundings. For example, a video screen could visually highlight a motorcycle passing by the vehicle and sound an alarm before the fleet driver changes lanes. Even if the driver didn’t initially see anything in their mirrors, additional overlays could notify them of passing vehicles before committing to a turn.
In-vehicle camera systems not only help drivers when changing lanes but also when backing up to park or to receive a load. Rather than rely on traditional mirrors, many drivers are learning to trust live footage on the display which provides them with a close-up view. In addition to providing better viewing angles, camera displays inside the vehicle won’t fog up or be affected by weather conditions like rain, snow, and ice.
Camera systems with live streaming capabilities, in particular, have the potential to significantly enhance fleet safety programs and keep fleet managers informed of driver behavior in real time. Identifying dangerous behaviors and non-compliance with safety regulations early on could help prevent future accidents caused by unsafe driving. A live stream of video footage from multiple cameras, including a driver-facing camera, could also help managers give personalized training on the job.
In conclusion, traditional mirrors will soon become phased out and replaced by video cameras. It may take another decade before this technology becomes standard in commercial vehicles, but we’re already seeing its implementation on the level of the consumer. The arguments for increased safety and lower fuel consumption make these cameras quite appealing to commercial fleets.