You Are Going To Love Rearview Mirror Cameras

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Your rearview mirror is about to go high-tech. Here’s why you’ll never look back fondly on old reflective mirrors. 

General Motors and others are starting to ship vehicles equipped with a new type of rearview mirror. Instead of the old reflective mirror we all know and tolerate, the new rearview device in your car will use a camera to show you a much better image. These cameras were launched a while back, but are now starting to trickle down to mainstream brands like Chevy. We tested GM’s rearview camera this week and became instant advocates for this technology. Here’s why.

Rear Camera Mirror- How It Works

GM’s system uses a camera located on the back of your vehicle next to the backup camera. It points back, but also to the sides and that image is then projected onto the same location as your legacy rearview mirror. Because rain and snow and road dirt will make that image a bit fuzzy, GM equips every vehicle with the rearview camera with a washer that sprays the lens every time you use the rear window washer. In sedans without a rear window washer, GM adds the camera washer and a dedicated button.

Foor safety reasons, or we suspect to satisfy regulators, GM’s rearview cameras are also perfectly normal reflective rearview mirrors. You simply flip that little tab under the mirror like you used to do to dim it at night. You can toggle back and forth between the camera view and the reflected image. It works instantly and when the mirror is in its reflective mode you will not notice any difference between it and any other vehicle you have driven in the past.

Rear Camera Mirror – Advantages

There are three main advantages of using a rear camera mirror like GM’s. First, you can see so much more than with an old reflective mirror. With a legacy mirror, the view was restricted by the view offered out of the back window of the vehicle. Put three adults or a full load of vacation cargo in the back of your crossover and that view was blocked. Meaning your rearview mirror was useless to you. Rear camera mirrors are behind the vehicle, so it doesn’t matter what you’re hauling. You can see the entire view all of the time.

Second, the view you get with a rear camera mirror is much wider. In fact, it is so wide that you really no longer need to use your side view mirrors when driving on the highway or along a multi-lane roadway. In our testing, we carefully noted how an approaching car looked as it would overtake us on the side. The car’s image appears for just as long in the rear camera mirror as it does in the side view mirror. The view is also taller in the camera mirror than that offered by a reflective mirror.

The third advantage is the resolution and the brightness of the rear camera mirror. Simply put, it is dramatically better than what you see with the naked eye in a reflected mirror. In the daytime, the image seems brighter. Almost as if a smartphone photo filter has been applied to the image (we suspect that is excatly what GM is doing). At night the difference is most impressive. We took the image above this paragraph ourselves. Note the richness of the camera view.

Rear Camera Mirror – Getting Used To It

The camera works well in all conditions. We did notice that at night, the image does not blind us with glare, but that glare from headlights can distort the view a bit. Still, what you are seeing is better than what a reflected mirror would offer. Here we suspect that future versions of such cameras will apply added optical filters that will cancel out glare distortion from vehicles behind you.

Last, you can’t move your head to the side to check your look in the mirror. Laugh all you like, but we would bet dollars to donuts you will be still doing it for a few days after you start to use the rear camera mirror. The vanity mirror in the sun visor is still there of course.