Do Car Cameras Spell The End Of Rearview Mirrors?

On the Chevy Spark, a concept car designed in South Korea, outside rearview mirrors have been replaced by attachments that look like slender flashlights pointing backward.

The attachments work like the backup cameras in vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, except the cameras are always on.

Ed Welburn, General Motors' vice president of global design, says though conventional rearview mirrors do a great job, they hurt a vehicle's aerodynamics.

"If you can eliminate those big aero-drag mirrors and just put a little camera there, it can help improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle," Welburn tells NPR's Robert Siegel at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Cars like the Cadillac Converj have been designed with two screens, one for each side of the car. Welburn says the camera provides a better view than the conventional mirror.

"In the Cadillac, we placed those screens ... inside in locations that are very similar to turning your head to look at a rearview mirror," he says. "I think, in some ways, once you get used to it, it's actually a whole lot easier."

The cameras may appeal to a generation fed on computers and video games.

"If you're a young driver who has never experienced a conventional mirror, this would make so much sense to you," Welburn says. "If you've been driving with conventional mirrors for years, there'll be a bit of a learning curve but ... it doesn't take long to make that conversion."

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