Will Side-View Mirrors Soon Become Useless?

Side-view mirrors are a crucial part of vehicle safety. They allow us to see traffic around us as well as any potential hazards or obstacles. Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, your side-view mirrors could be larger or smaller, and if you drive a classic car, sometimes even mounted in odd places, like on the front fender. But with a new generation of cars boasting even better technology, could side-view mirrors soon be getting replaced?

Cameras in cars

Cameras have been skillfully integrated into cars in a way that modern drivers have come to expect. Optional features like backup cameras were once high-end features but now are regularly expected and in some places, even a requirement for new vehicles. Backup cameras give us a wider range of view than our rearview mirrors can because they aren’t inhibited by the car itself, making it safer to drive because we can see more around us. But, these cameras haven’t replaced rearview mirrors; instead, we just have both.

A yellow microfiber towel rests on the sideview mirror of a wet car
A rag lies on the rear-view mirror of a car during a car wash | Frank Rumpenhorst/picture alliance, Getty Images

Side-view cameras

It goes to reason that the same ideas would apply for side-view mirrors and cameras. A side-view mirror shows substantially less than a camera could, because it is limited by many factors. Several car brands, like Audi, have produced cars with the option for side-view cameras that show a video feed directly to a screen inside the car, or sometimes the infotainment system, but this isn’t something we’ve seen here in the US.

A sideview camera of a concept car
A side view camera is seen on a prototype of the Sony Corp. Vision-S electric vehicle during a media event at the company’s headquarters | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg, Getty Images

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Potential problems could mean we keep side-view mirrors for a while

In the United States, it isn’t necessarily illegal for manufacturers to produce cars that have side-view cameras. The caveat here is that these camera systems can’t yet replace mirrors, making it undesirably for many auto manufacturers to make the switch, according to Autoblog. The concern arises if these systems are to fail like we have seen with some rearview mirrors in several recall cases, leaving motorists unable to see the road beside and behind them at all.

Sideview mirror of a car
A side mirror | Vladimir GerdoTASS, Getty Images

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While it is possible that side-view mirrors could eventually be replaced with cameras, and perhaps, from what we have learned from rearview cameras, they should. It also stands to reason why the NHTSA would have concerns over the rising popularity of the technology and putting driver safety is supposed to be at the forefront of their policy. While they may eventually discover side-view cameras to be the superior option, we aren’t quite there yet.