Replacing side mirrors with cameras has long been a concept-car flight of fancy, but Lexus will be the first automaker to make this tech a reality for a mass-produced model. A new Digital Outer Mirror option will debut on the Lexus ES in the Japanese market this October, and it uses exterior cameras and screens inside the car to replace the traditional side mirror. That beats Audi and its all-electric e-tron, which won’t go on sale until next year
Lexus claims that there are several benefits to the new technology. The cameras mounted on the front doors are far smaller and thinner than mirrors, for one thing, which helps improve forward visibility and reduces wind noise at highway speeds. The cameras also are shaped so that they won’t be obscured by rain or snow. The image visible on the two five-inch screens at the base of each A-pillar can be enhanced to show greater detail and a broader view, either manually by the driver or automatically when the turn signals are activated or the car is shifted into reverse. The screens also display the blind-spot warning icon and can give a wider peripheral view than a traditional mirror.
Like the new Audi e-tron, which will offer a similar side camera mirror setup, but not in the U.S. due to regulatory obstacles, Lexus is only offering this system in its home market for now (European regulations also allow cameras as mirrors). Lexus is exploring the possibility of offering the tech for the American market, but a spokesperson couldn’t say when it might be available, as timing will depend on federal safety regulations that have yet to be determined. The Japan-market ES will be the first to offer the tech as an option, but we presume it will roll out to other Lexus and Toyota models as well.