Trust and Technology: We look at the Lexus digital side mirror

Should we trust technology? With the rise of the Internet of Things, this is a question that has become more and more a daily question with the introduction of all kinds of products entering the market including the Amazon Key where an Amazon employee can let himself into your house to deliver a parcel, to the ever-listening devices from Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Homepod.

One of the biggest examples of this is the self-driving car, the concept has been around for some time now and it is becoming the norm to consider we will soon all be passengers in our vehicles. AI could increase vehicle safety, reduce traffic and get us from A to B while we check our emails, read a book or perhaps have a snooze. This is a huge shift in trust by handing over our family’s lives to a computer and one that will not be taken lightly but will build over time as you would build trust with another human.

Lexus has become the first car manufacturer to produce a road legal car with cameras replacing side mirrors but only in Japan for now.

The 2019 Lexus ES has the option of a camera that is mounted on a stalk and the image is shown on a 5-inch screen inside the vehicle in each bottom corner of the windscreen.

Interestingly, I’m not sure why they have the large side-mirror like stalk at all, the cameras could be integrated into the car’s structural beams to produce a sleek and more aerodynamic vehicle like the VW XL 1 concept car.

The reason that the Lexus ES is a Japan only release is that Japan has updated its legislation to allow cameras to replace side mirrors. This a good example where legislation has been inhibiting technological advances. The benefits are clear with an increased field of view, adjustable zoom, better weather resistance, object tracking and no more blind spots. They adjust their field of view when the vehicle is turning a corner or is put into reverse. The technology has been seen in concept cars since the 1980’s but the cost and legislation have got in the way of a production example. Lexus say they will beat Audi in being the first in production. Audi say their E-Tron will be for sale in 2020 in Europe with digital side mirrors.

I was under the impression that digital side mirrors were illegal in Europe, but it seems the EU legislation has allowed vehicle companies to explore the technology since 2016. The US will have to wait though as the matter is still being discussed in Washington.

A digital side mirror camera could track a vehicle as it passes you in the next lane.

The camera would be far superior at night when your mirrors go completely black until you’re blinded by an approaching vehicle.

Let’s hope that lawmakers see this cultural shift in trust with technology to encourage innovation instead of hinder it.

Tom Parsons, Aetha Design 2018

Aetha Design is a product design consultancy specialising in taking products from concept to manufacture, find out more at aethadesign.com

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