Tesla And Lobby Group Ask Regulators To Lose Side Mirrors

APR 1 2014 BY JAY COLE 57

Tesla Model X (w/side view Cameras) Beside Model S Sporting The "Old & Busted"

Tesla Model X (w/side view Cameras) Beside Model S Sporting The “Old & Busted”

If anyone has have ever seen a picture of the Tesla Model X concept, then it should come as no surprised to see that Tesla has joined with other automakers in petitioning US regulators to do away with mandatory side mirrors in favor of side cameras.

And Yes, Tesla Is Prepared To Provide Side Mirrors Until Proposition Passes

And Yes, Tesla Is Prepared To Provide Side Mirrors Until Proposition Passes

The lobby group of the large automakers – Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which includes the likes of VW,  Toyota, BMW, GM, Ford and Chrysler) along with Tesla filed a petition with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) asking for permission to do away with the ‘old’ technology.

So what is the angle to avoid Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111?  Aerodynamics and rising fuel efficiencies:

“In light of future greenhouse gas and corporate average fuel economy requirements beginning in 2017, camera-based systems represent an opportunity to increase vehicle fuel efficiency through improved aerodynamics by eliminating externally mounted mirrors.”

Considering the girth of your average American vehicle compared to the rest of the world we find that excuse might be a little bit light on reasoning and common sense – but whatever works in this case is still fine with us, as the day of the side camera mirror has more than come if the consumer wants to have that option so equipped.

This petition follows yesterday’s finalization of a new regulation that requires rearview cameras in all light vehicles (under 10,ooo lbs) produced after the mid-point of 2018.

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57 Comments on "Tesla And Lobby Group Ask Regulators To Lose Side Mirrors"

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Does anyone have any figures on CD x A for side mirrors as a typical percentage of total?

Pretty credible article on it here:


Seems to depend on the design and interaction with the A pillar. The average Cd for side mirrors seems to be about 0.015.

Removing both mirrors can give you around a 3 mpg range improvement.

I think the example cited is a little high on the norms (although I took it for a two mirror conversion at first) – as that number would be relative to the efficiency/CdA of the car. The test car (Geo Metro) in this case was sporting 56.70 mpg out of the box.

For most vehicles falling inside the CdA norms you would be looking at probably about a little more than a 1%-2%ish improvement (~.3-.6 mpg)

Your i-MiEV’s side mirrors are nearly 1 square foot of additional, nearly-flat wind resistance. On a tiny car like that, you may be adding 2-5% additional range.

Don’t poo-poo these changes. They can make a huge difference.

Think about heavy-duty trucks. Their mirrors are HUGE! Easily 3-4 square feet of frontal area.


Naturally fuel efficiency gains are more significant at very high cruising speeds. E.g. at 200 km/h on German Autobahn.

I think that when electric vehicles comes more common and therefore safety level improves, we will see raise in speed limits on highways.

I’m so used to seeing cars with mirrors that they look funny without them.

“I’m so used to seeing carriages with horses, they look funny without them.”


Thats a good one!

I mentioned that one of the reasons electric cars look odd to some people is they lack a grille. We’ll get used to it.

…that is one of my niggling gripes with the S model…it LOOKS like it has a grill!! It is actually a removable panel…but, why make it LOOK like a grill. Much prettier without it!!

On the ecomodder website, I’ve seen several people who’ve modified their personal vehicles by relocating the side view mirrors inside the car. They site aero efficiency improvements as well. So, while I will agree there is an aero advantage, I’d prefer they tried to get the law changed to where the view down the side of the car is what is required, but placement/methodology to obtain that view is up to the auto makers. That way if a different way than rear vision cameras came along to get the required visibility, it wouldn’t require much to make the change. Why tie yourself to a particular technology.

Would it be more than 1 mile difference in range for the Model S?

Math says yes.

Think about it. They wouldn’t spend time and lobbyist money if the gain was so little.

With the Model S it doesn’t matter so much because it has a larger battery and electricity is cheap. But for gas cars and for EVs with smaller batteries, it can help them.

That is kind of storm in a glass. Ok perhaps the aerodynamic drag is going to be reduced but if you have a glitch on your camera, you lose an essential tool to drive. So, the pro is balanced by the negative. Overall it is not essential.

Camera systems are reliable. We’re not talking about Windows crashing. We’re talking about a hardened, automotive-grade solution. The only thing that would destroy these cameras is the same thing that would destroy a side mirror.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Presumably the rearview displays would be a HUD on the windshield with a wider field of view and no blind spots, which would contribute pretty well to safety in addition to aerodynamics.

Incidentally, IIRC only the driver’s side has a mandatory mirror, I know that stripper cars in the past only had the driver’s mirror. Presumably you could provide a snap-on ’emergency’ mirror that can go over the camera in case it’s broken.

Interesting to google stories about people breaking side mirrors. I broke the passenger mirror on Volt washing it. Doh! Waiting for kdawg to post the commercial of the moving van knocking mirrors off of parked cars.

Couldn’t you do something similar with prisms instead of cameras or mirrors? So the electrical failure possibility goes away?

Clearly, the mirrors are the problem.

“Honey, do you think my butt is too big?” No, not at all. It’s the mirrors.” 🙂

Sounds like a good plan.

Instead of removing the unit completely, there will be a smaller and smaller camera unit in the same place so consumers get used to the idea.

I think it’s sad that expert automobile engineers have to get design permission from a bunch of government bureaucrats. The tail is wagging the dog.


It is okay for the regulators to demand that a safety enhancing rear view is implemented, but they should not be limiting HOW it should be done.

I haven’t seen a single reference to the other use of the side-view cameras. Active safety. Tesla has talked about it several times. Not just “dumb” blind-spot monitoring, but actively preventing accidents using these same side-view cameras.

Do we really need backup cameras? Anyone know what the accident statistics are and the expectation of how much that will improved.

Over 250 people were killed last year by being backed over by a car, mostly small children.

So for 250 deaths we are mandating $150+ cameras in 15 million cars? Unless they are “active” systems it probably won’t help those who are not looking anyway.

Yeah, for only those few people being unnecessarily killed it is hardly worth it…

For those people who don’t care for the looks of the Leaf’s headlights, this would eliminate the design needs to stream air around the current side-view mirrors. As rear-view cameras can enhance safety; side-view cameras could greatly enhance viewing and safety just as blind-spot warning sensors do now. I could also see some cameras used for security as well if designed for dual purpose.

I have been driving with side view video mirrors for almost 5 years now. http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/2010/09/eyes-forward-video-mirrors-on-my-xa.html http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/scion-xa-aero-mods-2969-48.html#post398017 Video mirrors have several advantages to optical mirrors, and one or two weaknesses. Video mirrors have no blind spots, they work better in the rain and at dusk. They reduce the frontal area *and* they improve the Cd, and they reduce the noise caused by air turbulence. The specific cameras I am using are sometimes hard to see well in very bright sunshine, and in full darkness they lose some detail. I did a lousy job of installing the wiring on the driver’s side unit, and this caused some problems, but I have now corrected that. I’d recommend at least 7″ diagonal LED backlit monitors, and installing them in many cars will require changes to the dash or doors. My Scion xA has the instrument cluster in the deep center of the dash, so the two monitors can be located right next to each other directly in front of the driver. So, a quick glance down lets me see *both* sides of the car at the same time. I can see directly behind my car (with a small slice of the sides of my… Read more »

I should have added that I *really* hope that Tesla can affect this change in the regulations. This should be an option for designers and engineers, and it will help improve the efficiency of all cars. ICE’s would get better FE and EV’s would have longer ranges.

Maybe he can get them to allow smaller cars, with fender skirts. Oh, wait they can. But nobody has enough sense to buy them. 🙁

There is no doubt in my mind that cameras would make me much more aware of my suroundings and a safer driver. If we get an aero perk so much the better, but the real advantage is the ability to have a much better view of my suroundings while keeping my eyes on the road.

I like rear view mirrors in that unless some clown knocks them off by hitting your car they work fairly well. The thing with a camera is that it can break more then a rear view mirror.

I would disagree. I think mirrors are much more prone to breakage than cameras just by virtue of the fact that they stickout so much. Seems like every car I’ve owned has had the mirrors broken off one time or another.

ya thats why my side mirrors have never broken

cameras are more prone to malfunctioning and then what? you cant see s***

Not anymore since they now are mobile in the case of a collision. They simply flap over and you just need to pull on them to place them back in their original position.

By the way at zero or close to zero speed a mirror uses zero energy, which is not the case of a camera and monitor especially if you have two or three.

Cameras are much smaller and they don’t stick out very far, if at all.

Optical mirrors get bashed off all the time. They don’t work if they aren’t there.

YES! FINALLY! We need someone to stand up and ask for this change. Just make it an option to not have side mirrors and have cameras instead. This could literally save millions of gallons of gasoline!

doesnt look right without side mirrors, side mirrors add a look to your car. looks odd without them. wouldnt want cameras, mirrors do the job perfectly

*Forehead slap*

Anon said it best: “I’m so used to seeing carriages with horses, they look funny without them.”


EVs 100 years from now, will look very odd indeed, to our eyes. No need for any retro affectations to simulate an ICE based vehicle of today.

You’re entitled to you opinion of course. But for similar reasons that EV’s don’t need big radiator grills, they should not have ’em – because they have a fairly large aero penalty.

All cars use a *huge* majority of their energy pushing air out of the way. And when you can improve the aero drag, you get a much better car. EV’s need all the range they can get, so they should only have small cooling intakes (with active shutters) and all cars could benefit from video mirrors.

How they *look* is a poor way to judge them.

+1 for cameras.

Opinions: better view capabilities, aerodynamics, should remain on until door opened (like radio in some vehicles), less prone to being struck (damaged), night vision!?

You know what would be fun?
Going around and quickly spray paint over the camera lenses or stick my gum on them or mud or spit or smear sodium fluoride or hydrogen fluoride or any network covalent solid of silicon dioxide molecules…..lol

There will always be a**holes and they will just find something else to damage. Maybe having the cameras on stand-by sensors to capture activity nearby might detour some vandals. It would probably cost just as much to fix other malicious damage as well anyway.

Vandals go around smashing mirrors right now, so what’s your point?

If someone is going to vandalize your car, they’re going to do it no matter what rear view devices it has.

Yeah, and they could take a hammer and break your mirror. Main advantage is that side mirrors no longer get ripped off by garage doors, car washes, or other vehicles.

No one has made a comment on what I think might be the most obvious impact: those damn Teslas as wide! Without mirrors, they would fit better into tight garages (right now, I could not fit a Model S that does not have the auto-folding option), down tight (European) lanes, etc. I fully expect that the cost is either a wash or perhaps less: no mirror assembly, no adjustment thingy in the passenger compartment, and reduced manufacturing time. My only comment from a user perspective is that I think the screen should be in an approximation of the conventional location, as I have too many decades of driving experience to learn that many new tricks (it has taken me a couple of years to actually look at the rear-view camera screen).

Instead if cameras generating a video of the area on the side of your car, how about using something like sonar to determine where cars are in relation to yours and then show a graphical display of the area surrounding your car in an eagle’s-eye view?

Elon Musk will do anything to discredit the major auto companies. It’s like he’s the first to have thought about this. From all the news we hear, we’d think he’s got a major auto company. All he’s sold so far is about 20 thousands cars.
He’s an innovator? Not really. The Tesla skateboard design comes from GM. The batteries are from laptops….7000 thousands of them. Nothing really to brag about.
His technology from SpaceX comes from NASA. He put down American companies and makes himself look like an Einstein. But he sure has the American buffaloed.

The other advantage of eliminating large side view mirrors is for cyclists. The mirrors are often the cause of vehicle-cyclist interactions, especially in highly dense, urban areas.

Im all for technological advancements where it makes dollars and sense, being an electrical engineer myself. When it comes to side mounted rear view mirrors, I OK with losing them if and only if the alternative doesn’t cost us more cockpit distraction and loss of overall situational awareness. Also, what happens when these electrical cameras go faulty, now something cheap goes exponentially expensive to fix and to install in the first place. Mirrors are pretty fault free and they actually make the driver look around and not go heads down like do most cockpit/dash monitors. Integrating them into a HUD system makes sense, but then the cost goes up again. And if weather covers the cameras, what then? While the idea is cool, it has some ergonomic, economic, complexity, environmental, and safety issues to overcome. Then theres the issue of wearing sunglasses when using monitors and LCDs. Polarized sunglasses don’t work with screens, which is why pilots use special glasses that work with monitor screens. Changes like this affect other ecosystems as well.

Maybe a good thing would be to make camera mirrors be a buyer option, but have optical mirrors be the standard until such time that they have proven themselves to be safe and stand the legal liability tests that are sure to follow in accident blame games. Wonder how this might affect the insurance business too.

And what happens if the camera is blocked or not work?