NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor will introduce a digital alternative to side-view mirrors in a revamped Lexus sedan due out in late October, becoming the world's first automaker to adopt such a device in a mass-produced vehicle.
The "digital outer mirror" system, announced Wednesday, features small cameras in place of side-view mirrors and display monitors inside the vehicle on both sides.
The cameras take up less space and therefore provide better forward visibility for the driver, according to Toyota. Wind noise is reduced for the same reason.
The cameras offer an expanded view during turns or when backing up. They are shaped to keep water droplets from hampering the view, and embedded heaters prevent fogging on the lens. Digitally enhanced images on the monitors improve views at night, and the driver can choose to have a wider view displayed.
If the system fails, the driver and the dealership will be notified for prompt repair.
The system will be available as an option on higher-grade Lexus ES sedans, only in Japan for the time being. Toyota already offers a similar system for rear-view mirrors on multiple models.
Japan's transport ministry revised safety regulations in 2016 to allow manufacturing of mirrorless passenger vehicles and trucks -- provided that the alternative systems offer range and image quality comparable to those of conventional mirrors. To help drivers adjust, the rule stipulates that the monitors be placed at similar locations to mirrors.
The European Union also changed its rules in 2016 to accommodate digital mirror systems, and the shift is likely to pick up pace. Germany's BMW in 2016 unveiled a concept model of a mirrorless version of the i8 sports car. Audi, a Volkswagen Group unit, also plans to develop mirrorless cars.
Among Japanese automakers, Honda Motor is developing a similar system but has no plan to commercialize it for now.
Nissan Motor sells cars with a convertible rear-view mirror, which can switch between mirror and display modes.
As these systems remain costly, they are limited to high-end models for the time being. The digital display systems are expected to aid development of next-generation technologies like autonomous driving.