For the EQS, Mercedes likes what it sees in the mirror

Europe

The Mercedes-Benz EQS full-electric sedan is so packed with technology that much of the automaker’s 70-page press release on the car is devoted to explaining it. But there is one feature that the EQS surprisingly doesn’t have: A rear-view camera system that replaces traditional mirrors.

To solve the problem of blind spots – made worse by safety regulations that have resulted in thicker body pillars and smaller glass surfaces – rear-facing cameras with an unobstructed view project images on a screen.

As a bonus, cars are more aerodynamic because the two side-view mirrors are eliminated or reduced to tiny cameras. That’s especially important for electrified vehicles such as the EQS to gain a few extra miles of range.

Analysts and suppliers are bullish on the technology. Beyond the safety and aerodynamics benefits, said Aaron Dale of IHS Markit, rear-view cameras can be integrated with analytics software or algorithms to recognize pedestrians. That will be crucial in the future for self-driving cars. 

Cars such as the Honda-e, the Lexus 300h and the Audi e-tron already offer such “virtual” rear-view mirrors.

But Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius said Mercedes – normally on the cutting edge of technology – will not offer them on the EQS, for a very un-technical reason. 

“The studies so far have found that a not-insignificant portion of customers, when they have a screen inside the car watching what’s happening behind them, they get motion sickness,” he said. 

Kallenius acknowledged the aerodynamic benefits at high speed – and noted that rear-view cameras are already available on Daimler’s heavy trucks – but he said that at low speeds, the energy used to power a rear-view camera system almost outweighed any aerodynamic gains.

He said Mercedes did not want to offer “technology for technology’s sake” if it came at a human cost, but he didn’t rule out future use if rear-view systems improved.

But as it stands, car sickness would certainly not be a welcome feature on a car that, as Mercedes puts it, is “designed to exceed the expectations of even our most demanding customers.”

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