Nissan previously told us about development of the Nissan Smart Mirror, a technology that could replace the rearview mirror as we know it. To give us a first-hand experience of how the combination mirror and LCD monitor works, Nissan dropped by our editorial offices with a prototype and let us take it for a spin.
The Smart Mirror can serve both as a normal reflective mirror, or as an LCD screen that displays a feed from a small camera facing backward. The 2014 Nissan Rogue we tried was loaded with shiny blue balloons in the cargo area, making visibility through the rear window using a regular mirror completely impossible.
“Ok, now flip the switch,” said Nissan representative Steve Diehlman. Once we did, the rear-view mirror showed us an unobstructed view of the vehicle’s entire rear, including the usually blind areas around the corners and lower bumper. Nissan says rear visibility is increased by 30 percent, given that solid objects like the D-pillars and rear-seat headrests aren’t in the way.
“It’ll be great for people traveling with lots of passengers or cargo,” said Diehlman, “but the biggest application I can see will be for commercial drivers with limited rear visibility," such as in cargo vans that are fully loaded with gear. The Smart Rearview Mirror uses a 1.3 megapixel camera mounted in a small black box inside the rear window. The Smart Mirror camera, which is separate from the lower-mounted backup camera, adjusts to changing light conditions, and is supposed to automatically account for issues like rain, glare, and bright headlights. You can also adjust the screen’s brightness and the up-and-down viewing angle for the camera.
Diehlman also suggested that it’s not impossible for the technology to display the feed from the backup camera in the mirror display, although our prototype was connected only to its designated camera. The 2014 Nissan Rogue's 360-degree AroundView Camera was still shown on the central display touchscreen.
On a quick driving loop near our office, the prototype Nissan Smart Mirror was easy to get used to, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t leave it in camera mode all the time. It will provide better rear visibility, no matter how much cargo or how many passengers are in the back of the vehicle. For people who are still not used to looking down at the center stack while backing up to see through the rear camera, the Nissan Smart Mirror also feels a lot more natural and less awkward.
One of the small kinks that Nissan will want to work out is how to make the display screen itself less susceptible to glare and reflections when the LCD monitor is activated. The camera works perfectly well, but the Smart Mirror still acted a little too much like a mirror when it was in screen mode, reflecting the bright afternoon sun.
An advantage of the Nissan Smart Mirror, however, is that adjusting the camera out of direct sunlight doesn’t change your rear view—you’re still seeing the wide-angle image fed from the camera. For people who can never get their mirror adjusted correctly, this tech will be an enormous help in making sure they can see behind their vehicle safely.
We don’t know just yet when or on which Nissan vehicle the Nissan Smart Mirror will first appear in the U.S., but the Japanese market will get the first production versions later this year. The technology will then follow on a U.S. model, although not necessarily the same one as in Japan. The new, futuristic-looking Nissan Murano crossover should be a strong candidate to herald an advanced visibility technology, but there’s no telling right now.
Photos by Scott Allen.