Back in May, we announced that Audi was eliminating the traditional rearview mirror from its R18 Le Mans cars, due to its lack of rearward-facing glass. We also made it clear that a lot of additions to new cars come from successful experiences in the racing world. Well, the R18s ended up garnering a 1-2-3 finish in that race.
As expected, with success comes commercialization, and Audi has announced that its upcoming R8 e-tron will boast this digital mirror technology. This system will consist of a 7.7-inch AMOLED screen mounted in the traditional mirror’s spot. The “mirror” uses a rear-mounted camera to send a video feed, giving the driver a slightly wider field of vision than the average rearview mirror.
Here’s the issue though, the NHTSA’s law book still requires a mirror made from reflective glass to be mounted to all passenger cars. The law specifically states “Each passenger car shall have an inside rearview mirror of unit magnification” and it defines a “unit magnification” as “a plane or flat mirror with a reflective surface through which the angular height and width of the image of an object is equal to the angular height and width of the object when viewed directly at the same distance except for flaws that do not exceed normal manufacturing tolerances. For the purposes of this regulation a prismatic day-night adjustment rearview mirror one of whose positions provides unit magnification is considered a unit magnification mirror. ”
The issue is in the verbiage is that the phrase “ a plane or flat mirror with a reflective surface...” eliminates an LED screen, as it is not a reflective surface. Now, the law becomes nullified is the car comes with side-view mirrors that have 49 square-inches of reflective surface and offer a complete view of the rear end of the vehicle. Those mirrors would be huge for this supercar, so we doubt that exemption will be valid.
We’ll have to see exactly how Audi plans to get around this, or if the NHTSA makes adjustments to its laws.
Click past the jump to read Audi’s press release.
gallery: Audi R8 E-Tron
From motorsport to series production: the digital rear-view mirror
Intelligent camera/monitor system ensures an ideal view
New technology goes into series production with the Audi R8 e-tron
Successful debut in the Audi R18 Le Mans race car
Audi is set to make driving even safer with a new technology: the digital rear-view mirror delivers brilliant images and is due to enter small-scale production in the Audi R8 e-tron at the end of this year. This model - like the current Le Mans winners - has no rear window and hence no conventional rear-view mirror. Its high-tech successor is the digital rear-view mirror - a camera/monitor system.
A control unit produces a consistent high-contrast, brilliant image. During the hours of darkness the intelligent control system prevents dazzle from the headlights of other vehicles. The driver can dim or deactivate the display at any time. Audi is also working on incorporating additional information on the monitor in future.
The small, ultra-lightweight camera is located in an aerodynamically optimized housing which is heated in cold temperatures. It uses a lens with a diameter of just a few millimeters and covers a much larger field of vision than a conventional rear-view mirror. A color monitor with a 7.7-inch screen diagonal mounted in place of a conventional rear-view mirror is used to display the digital image data from the camera. This AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) display, which comes from development partner Samsung Display Co., LTD, is making its debut in a passenger car. The organic materials used in the display are self-illuminating at a low voltage - i.e. they do not require backlighting. The AMOLED technology has already proved widely successful in cell phones and similar devices in the consumer segment.
The new displays are more energy-efficient, thinner, and lighter than conventional LCD monitors. Switching times are just a few milliseconds irrespective of the ambient temperature.
The digital rear-view mirror celebrated its dazzling premiere at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the R18 e-tron quattro and R18 ultra race cars which gave Audi a one-two-three win in the legendary race. The new system proved reliable even under the grueling race conditions.