It is not just about suppliers making more money. Camera-based monitors have advantages over traditional mirrors that help automakers tackle two top challenges: improving safety and boosting fuel economy.
For starters, cameras capture a wider angle of view and can see blind spots usually invisible with mirrors. They can also improve visibility by digitally compensating for glare, darkness or even rainy weather.
Camera-based systems typically weigh less than mirrors and reduce drag, helping lift fuel economy. They also allow for potentially sexier, streamlined body silhouettes.
Ichikoh's first product is an interior rearview mirror that has a double function: It operates as a regular mirror and with the flick of a switch, it transforms into a digital screen displaying a live video feed of the rear view.
Dubbed the Smart Rear View Monitor, it entered production June 28 for a customer that will use it in a vehicle that goes on sale in Japan in August.
Ichikoh identified the customer only as a Japanese carmaker with plans to use the video monitor in a midrange, low-volume nameplate.
Japanese regulators changed the rules to allow mirrorless cars beginning June 17.
"I can say we are the first on the OEM market," Ordoobadi said.
The pathway to mirrorless cars was cleared late last year when the United Nations' World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations approved the use of cameras that meet certain specifications in place of mirrors.
Tetsuya Saito, section chief on engineering policy at Japan's Road Transport Bureau, said Japan changed its rules in light of video quali-ty advancements. "The U.N. regulations have standards that clear- ly determine high-per-formance specs," Saito said. "Until now, camera monitors haven't been introduced to replace mirrors because they didn't have sufficient visibility."
Japan and the European Union were among the regions expected to revise local regulations this year to allow the new tech- nology.
The United States is seen adopting the standard in 2018, and China is expected to join the club in the coming years, Ichikoh said.
Volume may be low now but Ichikoh sees big growth, at least in Japan.
It predicts that by 2023, about 29 percent of the Japanese market -- or about 2.3 million vehicles -- will have video monitors as interior mirrors. At the same time, it forecasts that about 12 percent of the market -- about 900,000 vehicles -- will have jettisoned exterior sideview mirrors for cameras.
With its French partner Valeo SA, Ichikoh plans to introduce its monitor systems outside Japan, including the U.S. and Europe.
"We will not be looking just at the Japanese market," Ordoobadi said.
Ichikoh is hardly alone in readying the new technology. In June, rival Japanese mirror maker Murakami Corp. unveiled plans to develop video monitors in place of interior mirrors. Japan's Nikkan Kogyo newspaper said Murakami aims to start production around 2018.