Automakers generally introduce cutting-edge new tech at the top of their range and let the features trickle down to less expensive vehicles, but Lexus does the opposite with the first inclusion of rearview cameras to replace traditional mirrors on the lower part of the range on the ES saloon as of October. Unfortunately, regulations around the world mean that this technology is only available in Japan for now.
Lexus calls them simply Digital Outer Mirrors. Skinny stalks emerge from where you'd usually find the mirrors, and the company touts that their smaller size improves outward visibility and lowers wind noise. Square-shaped, five-inch displays on each side of the cabin display the cameras' images.
Adaptability is the advantage of opting for cameras over traditional pieces of glass. When drivers activate the turn signal, the view zooms out for a better look at what's around the vehicle. If the blind-spot monitoring detects a vehicle that the driver can't see, then the appropriate camera adjusts to make it more visible. There are similar tweaks to improve the driver's view when backing up. Owners can also manually adjust things to their preferred perspective.
Driving at night is also potentially safer because image enhancement brightens the picture to let drivers see more than what the standard glass would reflect.
Lexus places the cameras inside small niches, and the company claims that the design resists rain and snow accumulating on the lens. The company's video also suggests that this area is heated as an additional way to prevent cold weather affecting the display.
Other automakers are planning to bring rearview cameras to market. For example, Audi intends to offer them where possible on its upcoming E-Tron electric SUV. In addition, Mercedes-Benz has a system for its Actros semi truck that includes a pair of massive, 15-inch displays inside on each A-pillar. Removing mirrors from the big rig allegedly boosts fuel economy by as much as five percent.
Gallery: Lexus ES Digital Outer Mirror
Lexus Digital Outer Mirror Debuts on the New ES This October
News Release Models Lexus ES
Lexus will offer the world's first* Digital Outer Mirrors to be equipped on a mass-produced vehicle.
The Digital Outer Mirrors show what is on the left, right and rear of the car, displaying the camera's images on a monitor inside the cabin. They provide enhanced views of the area around the car at night and in inclement weather.
The Digital Outer Mirrors offer an expanded view of the car's surrounding by augmenting the display area during turns or when backing up.
The system's small cameras result in better forward visibility (no large side mirrors to block the view) and reduction of wind noise.
Lexus ES (prototype)
TOKYO, Japan (September 12, 2018)―Lexus announces its introduction of the world' first Digital Outer Mirrors on the new ES.
By installing small exterior cameras on the front doors, Lexus vehicles will provide its drivers with a clearer view of the vehicle's surrounding area. The cameras in the Digital Outer Mirrors transmit the images onto 5-inch display monitors located inside the cabin at the base of the front pillars. Another advantage the Digital Outer Mirrors have over their conventional counterparts is that they are shaped to resist the accumulation of raindrops and snow, leaving the driver's view unaffected.
The system automatically enhances the corresponding area―left, right or behind―when the turn signals are activated, or when the transmission is put into reverse. The view of areas around the car can be manually enhanced by the driver to obtain complete peripheral awareness of the area around the vehicle. By replacing the vehicle's conventional side mirrors with small cameras, side mirrors no longer block the view outside the front windows, resulting in improved visibility. Wind noise has also been reduced, resulting in a quieter cabin.
The digital mirrors will make their debut on the new ES, which will go on sale in late October. At this time, the Digital Outer Mirrors will only be available in Japan.
*Based on Sept 2018 Lexus research