BMW is taking a different approach to Audi's virtual mirror technology.
Virtual mirrors in cars are not new. For years, automakers have presented futuristic concept cars with cameras replacing conventional side mirrors. This technology has already been applied to production cars like the Audi e-tron and Honda e, although the technology isn't legal in the US yet. In the e-tron, video captured by the cameras is shown on an OLED screen positioned between the instrument panel and door. Not only is this convenient, but it also reduces aerodynamic drag to maximize the electric SUV's range. BMW, on the other hand, is taking a different approach.
Patents filed at the European Patent Office have been discovered by i4Talk showing that BMW is possibly developing its own virtual mirror technology.
Like other virtual mirrors, BMW's patent replaces traditional side mirrors with cameras recording live video. What sets BMW's design apart, however, is that the video is not shown on a screen inside the cabin. Instead, BMW's patented design features a semi-transparent mirror on the window embedded into the glass. Video from the external cameras is projected on a display reflected onto the window mirror in the driver's eye.
The image would appear where a conventional mirror would normally be. Like other virtual mirrors, this will reduce the amount of drag since the cameras will be smaller than conventional side mirrors. Other information can also be overlayed onto the virtual mirror display such as navigation instructions, parking guides, and the distances and speed of nearby vehicles when you're about to change lanes.
If you're thinking that winding the window down will make this virtual mirror technology obsolete, the section of the window with the semi-transparent mirror won't move. This isn't the first time BMW has experimented with virtual mirror technology, either. Back in 2016, BMW presented the i8 Mirrorless Concept at CES with cameras replacing the side mirrors and a central screen in place of the rear-view mirror.
It isn't clear when BMW plans to add this innovative mirror technology to production cars, but it likely won't be available for several years since virtual mirrors aren't legal in some countries. New electric models like the flagship BMW iX still have traditional side mirrors, even though the iNext Concept was presented with side cameras.