The United States' complicated regulatory structure means that many late-breaking vehicle technologies are verboten on our shores, and that includes side mirror cameras. To that end, the Honda E electric hatchback just became forbidden fruit twice over.
Honda announced on Tuesday that its upcoming Honda E EV will have standard side-view cameras in place of traditional mirrors. Instead of reflecting the car's side view into the cabin like mirrors do, these cameras will beam images to a pair of six-inch screens inside the vehicle, positioned at either end of the dashboard.
In addition to looking slick and lowering wind noise, the cameras provide a boon to the vehicle's overall efficiency. Honda claims the cameras reduce aerodynamic drag some 90% versus traditional side mirrors, which translates to a 3.8% aero improvement for the whole vehicle. This means the car won't have to push through the air as hard as it would otherwise, improving its electric range, if only by a bit. But in a car this small, which is likely to have a smaller battery, every mile counts.
Anyone who has tried to use a backup camera in the rain knows that these lenses aren't exactly impervious to being obscured, but Honda thinks it has a way around that. The overall construction of the camera housing allegedly mitigates rain on the lens, and whatever water does land there should wick off, thanks to a hydrophobic coating on the lens.
Honda's side mirrors can confer some additional benefits that mirrors can't, too. In the vehicle settings menu, drivers can select one of two views for the interior screens: a traditional view and a wider-angle view for improved visibility. When putting the car in Reverse, guide lines appear on each side-view screen to help people navigate around tricky curbs.
Honda is not the first automaker to make this move. Perhaps the most popular example of using side-view cameras is the Audi E-Tron, , but that doesn't matter to Americans because they can't be legally equipped here. Lexus for the redesigned ES sedan in other markets, as well. Audi's lobbying Congress to get the rules changed, but it's not likely on Congress' list of high priorities.