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Replace Side Mirrors With Video Cameras? Tesla, Carmaker Group Ask Feds For OK

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Tesla Model X sketch

Tesla Model X sketch

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Using cameras for side mirrors isn't a new concept--manufacturers have been fitting them to concept vehicles for decades.

But when it comes to road use, laws all around the world require proper mirrors, with no loopholes available for camera and screen-based systems.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is currently seeking approval to overturn current U.S. regulations on mirrors, says Automotive News, allowing it to fit more aerodynamic camera-based systems--such as those found on the original Model X crossover concept.

As car manufacturers seek greater efficiency from their vehicles, many are turning to aerodynamics--making their cars slip through the air with greater ease.

Unfortunately, traditional car mirrors are necessarily large and bulky, not only housing the mirror itself but also electronics to power it and sometimes turn signal repeaters, too.

This lump of plastic and metal can cause surprising amounts of drag on an otherwise smooth car body--as well as causing some of the wind noise you hear when driving down the highway.

Camera units can be made much smaller and more streamlined, or even mounted nearly flush with the body--vastly reducing that aerodynamic drag.

One company using the latter technique is Volkswagen with its XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid. Two small bumps in the body with cameras mounted behind are all that's needed to relay pictures to two screens inside the car--just below the area you'd normally look to check your mirrors.

Tesla and the 12-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has filed a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking it to okay the use of camera-based mirrors, on grounds of improving fuel efficiency without compromising safety.

The petition comes as the NHTSA declares that all new cars, minivans, SUVs and pickups weighing under 10,000 pounds must be fitted with a standard backup camera by 2018.

The move is designed to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by vehicles backing up as people--often children or the elderly--walk behind.

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