Among the more impressive features of this upcoming 2018 Nissan Leaf is its rear-view mirror LCD display.
During a recent test drive, with the flip of a button the mirror turned right to a TV screen, except that it exhibited what was happening behind the vehicle rather than my favorite Netflix displays — a great thing for everybody involved.
The resolution has been sharp, clear and virtually indistinguishable from what you may see in a genuine mirror. It also automatically corrected when I drove to a tube, with the image clarity continuing despite the change in outside light.
The advantages over a fundamental rear-view mirror quickly became evident. Since the mirror/screen uses a camera mounted in the rear of the vehicle, it’s never blocked by anything within the vehicle. No headrests, tall people or rear-window wipers obscuring your view.
I was disappointed to learn, then, that Nissan will not be offering the display instead in the new as it pertains to Canada early next year.
Indeed, the Japanese car maker is holding back on a wide-scale rollout in North America over all, with just the U.S. edition of the Armada using it instead.
Regardless of that, Nissan is working on expanding the technology. The business is testing a rear-view display that incorporates three cameras including one under each side mirror — to make a panoramic screen with a larger field of view. Bid farewell to blind spots.
Unfortunately, Canadian consumers are not prepared to pay for the present attribute, according to the auto maker’s focus group study.
“The No. 1 reason people do not want it is price,” says Francois Lefevre, chief marketing officer for electric vehicles in Nissan Canada.
The company does not disclose how much the display costs on its own — it is typically a part of an upgrade trimming.
Estimates from IHS Markit, however, peg the overall wholesale price of adding an LCD display and camera between $250 (U.S.) to $300, a reasonable hike over the simple cost of a mirror, which can operate as low as $5 up to $75 based on additional features, such as light and auto-dimming.
After-market LCD display mirrors can be less costly, as low as $40, but installing one can void a car’s warranty.
Despite Nissan’s hesitance in North America, IHS Markit expects the market to rise as prices fall. Car makers will create 1.8 million units annually by 2025 as the wholesale price drops to approximately $150 within the next few decades. The after-market will be at least 10 times that size, the company says.
The technology has had some regulatory hurdles to overcome because it puts a display into the driver’s field of view. It received approval in the USA last year, which only happened because it is an optional function.
“If it had been something which was unable to turn off, that is when it becomes a security threat,” says Mark Boyadjis, automotive analyst at IHS Markit.
Other auto makers are seeing growing demand from their clients today that the technology is permitted. General Motors, for one, started offering rear-view displays last year as an option in the Cadillac CT6, with growth following — such as in Canada — into the Cadillac XT5, Chevrolet Traverse and Bolt.
David Begleiter, tech planning manager for GM Canada, was sold on the advantages of LCD mirrors after taking his family on a camping trip last summer.
“We had the car loaded from floor to ceiling. If it was not for that attribute, I would not have been able to see through the rear-view mirror,” he says.
Next up: side-mirror cameras and displays. IHS Markit anticipates production on those systems, which will display what the side mirrors see on dashboard displays, to start within the next 12 to 24 months.
The idea has its own advantages. Replacing side mirrors with cameras would make cars thinner and more aerodynamic.
Augmented reality capabilities like distance measurements — like what Honda’s LaneWatch feature already does on the passenger-side mirror — may also be added to the digital reflections.
Adoption will be more modest than rear-view displays, but with only an estimated half a million units in production by 2025.
Regulations and complexity is going to be the biggest obstacles, Boyadjis states, since side-view displays are more challenging to implement.
Car manufacturers still need to figure out where to set the screens on the dashboard so it is logical for the driver. They can not have the passenger-side mirror view beyond the middle of the vehicle, for example.
“It’s far more complicated story,” he says. “It’s why we’re more bearish in that region.”
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