Anyone who has loaded the family SUV with luggage and gear for a vacation knows that using the rearview mirror to peer out the back window can be challenging.
Infiniti is deploying a new video display mirror that cuts through the clutter to offer an unobstructed view of behind the vehicle, but also a far wider sweep than a regular mirror.
The Smart Rear View Mirror, developed by U.S.-based high-tech mirror maker Gentex Corp., uses a rear-facing camera to beam a high-definition video feed to an LCD monitor in the mirror.
The system can still be used like a traditional mirror. But with the flick of a switch, the technology goes into camera mode. The camera is embedded under the rear window glass just beneath the rear wiper, ensuring that it is always clean and clear for an unobscured view.
The view is panoramic. In camera mode, it captures a 50-degree horizontal view angle, which Infiniti says is a 200 percent improvement over a conventional reflective glass. It delivers a better vertical view as well, helping drivers see below the tailgate.
The camera doesn't just see around rear pillars and the heads of back-seat passengers. It actually improves visibility by getting around rain streaks and adjusting for glare and contrast. Also, it can improve night vision by modulating exposure to help drivers see better in the dark.
The technology points the way to a future in which cameras and displays replace mirrors — not only the cabin's rearview mirror but the vehicle's external side mirrors. For now, side mirror applications have been slow to gain traction because of regulatory hurdles in some markets. But gadgets such as Infiniti's Smart Rear View Mirror highlight the technology's potential.
Infiniti first introduced the mirror on its full-size QX80 SUV in 2017. It upgraded the system in 2020 for the 2021 model-year QX80. The new version delivers a wider field of view, higher-definition picture, bigger 9.6-inch display and new flicker-mitigation technology.
The entire package is designed in a sleek, new frameless design and will next be used in this summer's redesigned QX60.
Future applications abound. Additional cameras that offer different views around the vehicle could feed video to the rearview mirror. The LCD could serve as an additional monitor to serve up content, such as warnings and other messages, to the driver. The rear camera could also house a drive recorder for the back of the car. And of interest to SUV and crossover owners who use their vehicles for towing, a camera on the rear of a trailer could help drivers see around their load.