Look ma, no... side mirrors?

Look ma, no... side mirrors?

I did not have too much time to surf the web today, but from the few press and blog articles I read, and from the posts on this forum, it seems that no one has actually noticed the Model X' side mirrors... or lack thereof. Looking at they seem to have been replaced by cameras. Prototype wow-factor, or a solution for production?

Timo | February 10, 2012

That's actually illegal solution for some places.

Also they do not extend very far at sides, so it looks like that creates larger bind spot right behind the car (backing up with a low trailer for example would be difficult). Cameras are OK, but I think you need dual ones with split screen, one at the side bind spot coverage and other at the rear of the car for each side.

andrewmfallon | February 10, 2012

Elon commented several times that they do not comply with current federal standards. That they are prototypes.Their big advantage? Big reduction in wind resistance. | February 11, 2012

I spoke with George Blankenship, Sr. VP. Sales and Ownership Experience about these at the Model X Event. He explained that there were issues with government regulation approvals to get through. So time will tell whether or not we actually see these. As cool as the side view mirrors look on the S, I wouldn't mind seeing them on the Model S one day as well.

Max Mindel

Timo | February 11, 2012

@TeslaRumors As cool as the side view mirrors look on the S, I wouldn't mind seeing them on the Model S one day as well.

There seems to be something wrong in that sentence. I assume "them" in that refers to cameras, not to mirrors on Model X?

Or is there "not" missing between "mind" and "seeing"? | February 11, 2012

Exactly. This whole forum is about the cameras, so I thought that was implied.
But here you go...
As cool as the the side view mirrors look on the S, I wouldn't mind seeing the cameras on the Model S one day as well.

Robert.Boston | February 11, 2012

As others have suggested (but let me complete the thought), the ideal solution is to have 4 rear-facing cameras: two mounted near the front corners of the car, and two on the rear corners. Software would then merge these images into a seamless "fish-eye" view from the driver's perspective. These left/right views could easily be on the dashboard's display, on either side of a vertical pane with key operating information.

The biggest challenge will be to retrain drivers, who are used to looking at the side mirrors. If you think about it for a minute, that behavior isn't safe, as it shifts the really important visual point--straight ahead--out of peripheral vision.

Robert.Boston | February 11, 2012

As an alternative to the above, consider replacing the rear-view mirror with an long, thin display mounted just above the front windshield, that would display a complete rear and side panaorama in a place where drivers are used to looking for this sort of information.

Completely illegal, and heavily reliant on technology, but....

Brian H | February 11, 2012

Yes, regs are often conservative, holding back technology, dating from the early days when whips were often found to be buggy.

discoducky | February 11, 2012

What is the problem that is being solved?

Safety is increased, but needs to be proven. Government will need to spend money on a study.

Energy is saved, but exactly how much needs to be proven. Again, will need to be a non-biased 3rd party.

What is cost of the solving the problem?

Studies cost money and needs to be approved at the federal level ultimately, but this could start at the state level. Wasn't the CA gov at the Model X event? Maybe a smart journalist asked him about the possibilities.

Tech costs money. Most likely way more than side view mirrors as the camera needs to be heated and protected from the elements. If regulation was passed I bet it would attempt to make the camera much more robust than a mirror.

Are there any side-effect advantages or disadvantages?

+ Auto-detect cars in blind spots (aka the death of blind spots)
+ Auto-detect oncoming cars, parked cars or obstacles before opening door when parked (Is there enough room to open the Falcon doors?)
+ Monitor the car while parked
+ Parallel parking aid
+ Could replace with newer models in the future (wider angles, new safety features
- Higher maintenance, harder to clean, replacing could be an issue

My feeling is that it will happen but someone needs to present a change to the regulation based on independent 3rd party studies.

Tâm | February 23, 2013

I love current Models S' rear view camera and I leave it on the display all the time or I'll feel crippled.

However, when it rains, even as lightly as shown at the time of the picture below, small rain drops sticking on the camera would be magnified and rendering the camera useless.

How will Model X handle this rainy problem if side view mirrors are replaced with cameras? Warm air jets? Vibrations to shake moisture off? Can Infrared Camera sees through a rain drop without distortion?

Brian H | February 24, 2013

TM engineers are working hard to develop a tiny force field for it. Or so I hear ...


Benz | February 24, 2013

"How will Model X handle this rainy problem if side view mirrors are replaced with cameras?"

I am a fan of the Tesla Model X, but I haven't yet thought about that. Good point Tam. But the engineers of Tesla Motors must have thought about that, therefore I think that they will have come up with a solution for this problem.

logicalthinker | February 24, 2013

SIMPLE solution, hear hear Tesla: Wipers.

I'm actually surprised it's not already on the rear-view cam.
Put a little wiper on it. Presto, clear view.

In fact this would be better than rear-view mirrors, which can get splattered or sprinkled on.

cloroxbb | February 24, 2013


Logically, I think the camera's surface area is probably not big enough to allow a wiper to move the water out of the view of the camera.

cloroxbb | February 24, 2013

sorry "camera lens's surface are"

Alex K | February 24, 2013

Looks like the Model X will now have side mirrors if we can believe what was shown at the Detroit auto Show and what was communicated to AutoblogGreen: "Tesla representatives told AutoblogGreen that this Model X is an updated design prototype, not even a beta version (the first beta is expected in 2014). That said, the minor evolution that we see here is getting closer to what the production model will look like."

As a comparison, VW is putting the side cameras into the door of their XL1:

VW also decided to put the side/rear view image inside the side door. I guess it's the default place people will look for:

Brian H | February 25, 2013

TM wants cameras, but can't have them. Too many jurisdictions mandate mirrors.

Hi_Tech | March 6, 2013

@Tam - Reasonable question.
Couple solutions come to my "un-professional" mind:
1. Umbrella Effect - Recess camera under a covering. Would protect from rain, snow, ice, etc. It could still get dirty from kick-back or dirt/mist flying back up.
2. Wipers - (one of the previous ideas with twist) Add a flat layer of "glass" (strong clear plastic, whatever) outside of the camera, with wipers on them. Similar to headlights in many cars.

A mixture of both of these could really cover many of the issues found.

To be honest, how much wind resistence is actually increased with mirrors, compared to cameras? Does anyone have ideas on this? I recall Model S came in at about .23 (or something like that). Would this really help that much?

That said, I do like the added benefits of the cameras that others have mentioned. Well, if this model will be in research/design phase for another year, then maybe they can get this legislation updated. I think I'm hoping for too much though.

Tiebreaker | March 6, 2013

F1 cars have cameras in a clear cylindrical enclosure, and the cylinder rotates slowly around the camera, cleaning the grime...

Mica | March 19, 2013

Cameras are just cool but most driving habits are still on mirrors, that is why the transit laws sticks on mirrors, but any way, even if the law changes, we still need mirrors as an option.

joshnd03 | March 31, 2013

weather cameras, the kind they used to film tornadoes, have a small piece of glass that spins right next to the lens. It's apparently keeps the camera clear of water when it is raining hard

rdalcanto | April 17, 2013

I have had two motorhomes with cameras to help with the mirrors. I never use them for several reasons. Depending on the sun angle, they don't work well. It is also not good to want to go left, but have to look right at the center of your dash. If you are going to also check over your left shoulder, you are now turning your head left, then looking right, which means less time looking in front to make sure nobody is stopping in front of you. In my experience they look cool, but are not as safe as mirrors. I hope they never make it to the final design.

CRASCH | May 21, 2013

They should put the screens in the A pillars, IIRC the wasted space between the windshield and the passenger windows. This has the advantage of being on the same visual plane as the side rear view mirrors and about as close to their natural location as you can get.

How about a Hydrophobic coating for the camera lens? I guess there could be durability issues with the coating. As for my rear view camera I put rain X on it and it stays clean. I do need to do this periodically. YMMV.

carlgo | June 3, 2013

I agree with rd: people need to move their heads around and actually look at things. Still, the blind spot is a problem and there are various blind spot sensors being used on cars today. Some must work better than others.

How about mirrors that present a view captured by cameras? Taken further, it could be like a fighter plane so the driver has situational awareness of anything within a certain distance and assess threats. A graphical interpretation of the view might be useful, albeit confusing to some and unlikely to pass regulations.

kwanta | June 3, 2013

Rain is not an issue if the camera is designed correctly. Snow is an issue whether you use a camera or a mirror, so nobody can make an argument there really. A person must manually scrap snow away from obstructions of view.

The coefficient of drag can be reduced by having a camera versus having a mirror. So it would save on energy consumption. See this article.

I totally disagree with it being less safe because you aren't moving your head. Think about people who drive behind you with their brights on at night. With a mirror this can be very irritating, and very unsafe. The studies the federal government publishes on mirror safety are biased and does not consider this a factor.

The studies they do are probably less aware about what disabled people already have this implemented to drive more safely. People with spinal fusions who can't turn their torso to one side or the other efficiently need to have mirrors and this is approved for many. They need this because they have a stainless steel rod in their back, mainly because of scoliosis or from lack of neck control, and physically can't turn to one side or the other. I am one of those, as I have spinal muscular atrophy type II. I have a near perfect driving record since 1996, when I turned 16 and am 32 now. Doctors have mandated that their patients get cameras if they want to drive because they physically need these accommodations.

Many friends of mine actually have adaptations like sound recognition and even joysticks for driving. Talk to Freedom Motors in Michigan. They have the best factory for disabled vehicles in the country, and get requests like these all the time. I have one of their XWAV (Extreme Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) that I've been driving since 2006.

The real issue is getting government funding and approval to re-write the legislation for cameras. Studies are expensive. The real answer for this question is cost, just like anything in the world. Is it worth changing the current law? If Tesla can prove that the cost it saves on energy consumption and to help patent the idea for other car makers with gasoline cars (which cause our ozone depletion) is more than the cost to do the study and have congress re-write the legislation, I think it's worth it.

PS: I think Tesla Motors, Kenguru (disabled electric car), and Freedom Motors (leader of disabled conversions to vehicles) should team up to make a compelling disabled electric car.

Tesla Monster | July 13, 2013

Put the camera on the side of the side view mirrors and have the option of the mirror folding flush with the window thereby activating the camera and the display. This will solve regulatory issues as well as increase range

teslaver | August 15, 2013

So, does the Mod X have no sideview mirrors finally?

Current pics seem to make me believe so and then there is this article.. hopefully they succeeded in pushing the regulations?

Seems like this is why they dont have auto retract, heated side mirrors and whatever else is missing or not right with the side mirrors.

loudpedal | May 18, 2015

I worked for Donnelly back in the late 90s, early 2000s (they made nearly all inside rear view mirrors at the time) and they had a prototype camera system installed in a BMW 5 series. They didn't have the images stitched (due to the technology limitations of the day) so there were three separate images. Additionally, the rear view cameras were toward the back of the car. I felt that the side view cameras needed to be in the traditional location to show the side of the car at the edge of the image. That would give a critical reference point for that system. I think the stitched method would be best though (as mentioned by others as well). I would put a curved display on top of the dash (viewable just above the steering wheel). I'd welcome a change like that.

As far as water, I've seen an ultrasonic emitter near the lens that would pulse occasionally to clear a small space like that off pretty easily. Just my thoughts.

Remnant | May 19, 2015

@ loudpedal (May 18, 2015)

<< .... I felt that the side view cameras needed to be in the traditional location to show the side of the car at the edge of the image. .... As far as water, I've seen an ultrasonic emitter near the lens that would pulse occasionally .... >>

The "traditional location" is for mirrors and it obviously hinges on the line-of-sight need of the driver. Cameras send the image to the dashboard and should, therefore, be optimized for rearview; the driver has no benefit from seeing them, so they can be out of the driver's sight altogether.

This optimization will be different for different car models. VW-XL1 has the side cameras in the side doors. MS and MX would probably fit them better behind the side logo insets, on the front fenders, as recessed micro-cameras, with or without ultrasonic atomizers. Side cameras are not illegal and could be installed (or built in) anytime.

What is still illegal is the removal of the side mirrors, so they will have to stay, in the "traditional location" until NHTSA will decide otherwise. For awhile then, one could have both side cameras and side mirrors, but not in the same locations. MX, as well as future MS editions, could certainly be produced with such dual side rearview.

gerardP | May 21, 2015

and before NHTSA acceptance,could the side mirrors be somewhat reduced in size to reduce drag?

Remnant | May 22, 2015

@ gerardP (May 21, 2015)

<< and before NHTSA acceptance,could the side mirrors be somewhat reduced in size to reduce drag? >>

I would think so; the regs do not ordain the size.

And if you also have the cameras, you could probably drive with the mirrors fully folded. | May 22, 2015

Mirrors aren't perfect because they add a little drag and have blind spots but modern mirrors that are adjustable from inside the cabin, adjust for bright lights, point down when backing up, fold away when parked and defrost when needed are very cost-effective for their purpose. How about side view mirrors with dual function operation-LCD camera display and traditional mirror display? Then, if conditions interfere with the camera operation one could revert to traditional mirrors. There would still be the added drag but the act of viewing what's behind one to the sides would be the same glance out the windows. The camera view would be preferred because of better coverage.

Or is that just another dumb idea of mine?

Red Sage ca us | May 22, 2015

georgehawley:. It's a great idea, for: 1) cars that are limited to a 45 MPH maximum speed; or 2) cars with 170 kWh, 220 kWh, or larger battery pack capacities. Either way, the concerns about drag would be mitigated by typical use or available energy reserves.


RonaldA | May 22, 2015

Heads up display on the side window where the mirror usually projects would be good as well

Red Sage ca us | May 22, 2015

Except that some people insist they must drive, or ride, with the window open, or they 'can't breathe'. I try to resist pointing out that if they can talk, they can breathe... I still jokingly refer to them as acting like a dog, and offer them a Scooby-Snack.


Brian H | May 22, 2015

head up display | May 22, 2015

Even if a heads-up display could present an adequate camera image, I wonder about the confusion potentially created while trying to watch forward and rearward at the same time. But then I am easily confused in my dotage.

vandacca | May 22, 2015

I suspect that the head-up display (you're welcome Brian) would only display very simple, straight-forward information like speed, navigation directions, distance till next turn, etc.

With regards to camera images, I've seen some high-end German cars have a birds-eye view on a secondary screen showing a complete picture of the surroundings of the vehicle. This would make it quite easy for a driver to get a complete picture very quickly. I can't imagine adding a video feed to a head-up display due to the technical complications and due to data over-load on the driver.

Just my opinion...

paradis | May 23, 2015

Another drawback to a head-up display is that you can't see it if you're wearing polarized sunglasses. Although aside from that I found it generally very convenient.

Remnant | May 23, 2015

@ (May 22, 2015)

<< How about side view mirrors with dual function operation-LCD camera display and traditional mirror display? >>

The problem I see with that is that it does not appear to address the drag issue. To do that, you should be able to remove the mirrors or fold them out of the way, which would also disable or impair the rearviews of the cameras.

The side camera locations need to be optimized for their intended rearview use, unaffected by the fate of the mirrors (the eventual removal).

As mentioned above, the cameras do not need to be in the driver's sight, because there's nothing to see on them. The camera rearview images have to be transferred to the dashboard (whether by a HUD or by LCD/LED screens) for the driver to see them

vandacca | May 23, 2015

This is an old video (at 0:51) where Elon clearly states that the rear-view cameras may not make it to production because of regulations, but that they were thinking of providing removeable mirrors that the owner could remove after purchase.

RonaldA | May 23, 2015

A small screen where the delta window is would also work and it doesn't open this avoiding some of the difficulties in heads up displays. (Couldn't resist)

RonaldA | May 23, 2015

Thus. | May 23, 2015

I'm not convinced that the mirrors contribute that much to drag, although I have seen estimates as high as 5 %, that might decrease range at 65 mph by 5 or 6 miles ( drag is only part of the energy/mile picture). But the cross section of the car looks to be in the vicinity of 4000 square inches. The mirrors might add as much as 40 square inches each, maybe more like a 2% effect. Anyway, the drag effect of the mirrors doesn't seem like much of an issue. Am I wrong?

jjs | May 23, 2015

george says 2% Elon says 5%

I don't know who is right or wrong for sure, but my money would be on Elon.

Sorry george

Red Sage ca us | May 23, 2015

It isn't so much the surface area, as it is where the air goes after flowing past the mirrors. The disruption of air that ordinarily would not have affected the streamlined main vehicle body at all is the problem. Every little bit counts.

grant10k | May 24, 2015

Abrupt changes in body shape are a problem. Side view mirrors are especially problematic because the part facing backwards has to be flat. You can't mold well into the housing because the mirror has to move around, and you can't guide the airflow out and around because if you have a huge housing around the mirror, it blocks a lot of the driver's view. I could totally see 5% drag coming from the mirrors.

That's why the Nissan Leaf has such crazy headlamps, for drag and noise. The bug eye'd lamps push the air out and around the side mirrors ahead of time, so most of the air doesn't have to cut across the mirror. | May 24, 2015

As you can see, I didn't do well in the fluid dynamics course. I guess the key is the turbulence that the stick out things ( technical term) create, as per Red and grant's comments. Still, a second order effect compared to potential safety benefit. Elon is smart all right but maybe not as smart as all the forum folk put together.

jjs | May 24, 2015

No one is as smart as the collective knowledge of this esteemed forum. Nor as warped.

I believe cameras with video displays on the right/left side of the "instrument" panel would be safer than current mirrors. It is not as far for the eyes to move to get the needed information.

As for those who have suggested using 2 side cameras and stitching that together into one panoramic shot, even better. That could be displayed in a slightly larger, split "instrument display) with the stitched image at the top

Some might get motion sick with that display constantly one so a one button activation of it from the steering wheel would solve that problem.