Tech for the sake of tech? Think again.

Since the genesis of the motorcar, glass mirrors have been the best (and only) way of helping a driver see what’s happening on the road behind them. Lately, however, an increasing number of car makers are offering cameras as a high-tech alternative.

Honda has even gone as far as offering its highly anticipated E city car with camera side mirrors as standard – but what exactly is the point? Do they have any noticeable advantages over the old-fashioned method, or is this an unnecessary attempt to reinvent the wheel?

The short answers to that are ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Cameras are more effective than glass mirrors. In fact, there are three clear reasons why you are much better off in a car with side cameras:

1. Bye bye blind spots

The biggest problem with the traditional wing mirror regards its field of vision. It isn’t quite wide enough, leaving a nasty gap between what you can see by looking out your side window and what you can see behind you in the mirror. Blind spots can cause accidents even with attentive, careful drivers at the wheel. If a cyclist, or even a car is positioned just so, it can be dangerously easy not to see them.

With cameras, this issue becomes a thing of the past. Unlike a glass mirror, a camera’s field of vision can be stretched (without making everything tall and thin), offering a wider view of the road behind, and sharply reducing the size of your blind spot. Even better, in cars like the Lexus ES hybrid, you can push a button to see an extra-wide angle, allowing you to make absolutely sure the road is clear before turning or switching lanes.

And that isn’t the only blind spot that’s removed by using cameras: there’s also the one created by the wing mirror itself. In an average car with average sized mirrors, this isn’t a huge deal, but in larger vehicles, the wing mirrors create a significant and dangerous gap in the driver’s sightline at 10 and 2 o’clock. This is not the case when using a small, streamlined camera. Speaking of streamlined…

2. They’re slippery

They may not look like much, but conventional side mirrors are one of the most aerodynamically inefficient parts on a modern car. The faster you go, the more drag they make, resulting in a needless waste of battery power (or petrol for you old-fashioned types).

But by simply replacing those big slabs of glass with skinny cameras, which are of course housed in a tiny casing carefully designed to be as slippery as possible, you reduce a car’s drag coefficient significantly.

3. Visibility

This often overlooked advantage is really quite obvious once you think about it. Mounting a camera where a mirror would go allows you to bring the screen you’ll be looking at into the vehicle’s cabin. That means it’s more in your sightline, but it also means you don’t have to worry about it misting up in the cold, or being hard to see through a rainy window. Plus, because it’s a digital display, the brightness is adjustable – when you enter a dark tunnel, the camera and screen will auto-adjust to give you a much better view than you’d get using the naked eye and a pane of glass.