Virtual mirrors: the advantages and disadvantages of new technology – 28/09/2020

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The virtual mirrors have already started to arrive in cars made in series. Brazil has just received its second model to bring the technology, the Audi e-tron Sportback, whose suggested price starts at R $ 512 thousand.

The first to have the system was the e-tron, launched at the beginning of the year. The SUV also approaches the house of R $ 500 thousand, depending on the version. In both, the equipment is optional, and has a price of R $ 13 thousand. As standard, all versions come with conventional mirrors.

Therefore, technology is for the few, and it is still far from the reality of most Brazilians. However, Audi models already allow us to envision a distant future in which virtual mirrors can become common in automobiles.

And this should not happen just because of the modernity and usefulness of technology – which, for now, is quite questionable. The great advantage of virtual mirrors is the aerodynamic gain, a very important factor for the consolidation of the electric car – for contributing to improve, among other points, the autonomy.

If in Brazil the massification of the electric car is something that will take a long time to happen, in Europe they are getting closer to reality. Norway, in fact, constantly has models with this type of engine occupying the first place in the sales ranking.

The Leaf was once a leader in Norway, as were Tesla cars. Recently, according to information from Audi, the e-tron started to occupy this position.

Back to the virtual mirrors, what are they, anyway? How do they work? And what are its advantages and disadvantages?

How do virtual mirrors work?

The concept and operation of the virtual mirror is no secret. In the place where the external mirrors are usually installed, cameras of very high resolution and excellent angulation and range are placed.

Screens project images from cameras placed in place of rear view mirrors

Image: Audi / Disclosure

The images captured by these cameras are projected on screens installed on the two front parts. In addition to the sharpness, as the cameras cover a wide space, they also eliminate most of the side blind spots.

As an example, Honda uses a similar solution to eliminate blind spots. Cars with the technology have normal rear-view mirrors, but side cameras project images onto the multimedia center screen whenever the driver presses the arrow to change lanes or make conversions.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantages of the system were already mentioned above. It improves the aerodynamics of the car, offers a broader view and eliminates much of the blind spots.

The main disadvantage, in my opinion, after three tests carried out with cars with the system, is the fact that the objects are more distant than reality. This gives a safety margin when running the vehicle on congestion-free roads.

However, in heavy traffic situations, when lane changes eventually have to be made with less space, it gets in the way. The feeling in these cases is that there is never room to change lanes.

To assist, the system has lines that show the safety margin when changing lanes. Red is for when maneuvers are impossible, as the car in the lane next door is very close.

In yellow, you can convert the maneuver, but with caution. The green one shows that the lane change can be done smoothly, as there are no obstacles nearby.

Another difficulty generated by the exaggerated distance in relation to objects occurs in maneuvers to park in very tight spaces. While pilasters are far apart, the camera shows that they are completely glued to the car.

Matter of habit

Conventional mirrors also do not give an accurate picture of the actual distance to other objects. Some show them more distant. Others, closer. But, in everyday use, the driver gets used to it.

The tendency is that the same occurs with the virtual mirror. In my first test, I was a little bewildered by the technology, mainly due to the habit of looking at the place where the rearview mirror should be, and seeing nothing.

In the second, she was already used to looking at the screens. In the third, even the parking maneuvers became easier, because my brain started to process the interval between the real distance and the one shown on the screen.

I still cannot say that I am completely used to the virtual rear view mirror. After all, there were few contacts. But this evolution of perception makes it clear that, with the habit, those who buy the car with the technology will end up thinking that it has much more advantages than disadvantages.

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