Audi’s latest R18 Le Mans prototype, which this year won the illustrious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, has no rear window. However, anyone piloting the advanced race car still has a clear view of what’s happening out back thanks to new technology installed by Audi engineers: the digital rear-view mirror.
Now, like quattro, FSI and ultra lightweight technology before it, the digital rear-view mirror is being transferred from the fast-paced world of racing and into Audi’s production cars. The technology will first appear in the 2013 Audi R8 e-tron due out at the end of this year.
This model--just like the R18 prototype--has no rear window and hence no conventional rear-view mirror. Instead, a small camera located at the rear of the car relays images to a 7.7-inch digital screen in place of the typical rear-view mirror.
The camera features a lens with a diameter of just a few millimeters and covers a much larger field of vision than a conventional rear-view mirror. It even has a feature that keeps it warm during cold winter months.
The digital screen up front is made up of AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) elements, which were developed by Samsung and are self-illuminating at a low voltage--i.e. they don’t require backlighting. The driver can also dim or deactivate the display at any time.
For now, only rear-view information is displayed though Audi plans to add additional info in the future, possibly navigation and traffic updates.
For years, one of the problems that has plagued outlandishly styled supercars, particular those where the engine is mounted behind the cabin, has been a lack of visibility out back. Technology like the new the digital rear-view mirror means designers are no longer limited in this area so perhaps we could see some exciting new designs, where cars no longer feature a rear windshield, going into the future.