Cars without side-view mirrors to hit road soon

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the first teaser image of the new Model Y, which does not appear to have any side-view mirrors, at an annual shareholders meeting in California.

Observers, then, expected the new electric SUV to include high-tech cameras instead.

In addition to Tesla, such global carmakers as Nissan Motor and Volkswagen have recently showcased their concept cars also without side-view mirrors.

According to industry officials, car mirrors that came into the world a century ago will disappear soon.

In 1911, race car driver Ray Harroun used the world’s first rear-view mirror at the first Indianapolis 500. After Harroun’s victory, rear-view mirrors became necessities for cars.

The U.N. World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, however, abolished the obligation of installing side-view mirrors last year, opening the door for cameras and monitors to replace them. Japan also followed suit last year.

Earlier this year, the Korean government amended the regulation on side-view mirrors, allowing cameras to substitute for mirrors in Korea as well. Before the amendment, cameras and monitors could only be used as supplementary devices.

Industry officials expect the new system will improve fuel efficiency, minimize blind spots and reduce noise.

“If a camera monitoring system can take the place of side-view mirrors, domestic manufacturers will speed up developing technologies, as well as improving the performance and design of vehicles,” said an official of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.

As the official said, the nation’s manufacturers have actively applied for patents for their camera monitoring systems in line with the recent trend.

Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) data shows 55 inventions have been submitted for patent application annually on average over the past three years. KIPO expects more patent applications following the amendment.

According to KIPO, conglomerates have applied for 144 patents of their camera monitoring systems, while individuals, medium-size firms and small firms have applied for 110, 75 and 75 patents, respectively. Research institutes and foreigners have applied for 44 and 58 patents during the period, respectively.

By company, Hyundai Motor has applied for 51 patents and Hyundai Mobis has applied for 41 patents over the past 10 years. SL, LG Innotek, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and LG Electronics have applied for 21, 16, 13 and 12 patents, respectively.

Denso, Panasonic and Valeo are developing the related technologies in other countries.

“Although cars without side-view mirrors have many advantages, drivers may feel difficulty in securing a clear view, when lenses are dirty. Also, electrical products can easily break down,” a KIPO official said. “To popularize the system, manufacturers should focus on safety and durability. We believe they will continue to come up with patents to resolve such problems.”

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