Japanese market versions of the 2019 Lexus ES will be available with digital cameras that replace conventional exterior mirrors. The feature will only be available in Japan, which legalized camera mirrors in 2016, due to regulatory issues in other countries.
The "Digital Outer Mirror" system, which Lexus claims is a world first on a production car, shows feeds from two exterior cameras on a pair of 5.0-inch screens mounted at the base of the front pillars. The cameras automatically shift their focus to the appropriate area when the driver activates their turn signals or puts the car in reverse. The camera pods are also shaped to resist the accumulation of raindrops, according to Lexus.
Because the camera pods are smaller than conventional mirrors, Lexus claims they will allow greater outward visibility, as well as reduce wind noise. Other automakers have claimed camera pods can cut down on aerodynamic drag compared to mirrors, although the Toyota luxury brand did not specifically mention that in its release.
Audi plans to launch a similar system on its e-tron electric SUV, which will be unveiled September 17. The Audi system uses display screens mounted in the door panels. While the system will likely be available in Europe at launch, U.S. regulations currently don't allow for replacing mirrors with cameras. Audi has said it is working with U.S. regulators but has no firm timeline for bringing the feature here.
Audi isn't the only automaker stymied by regulations in this area. The original concept version of the Tesla Model X used cameras instead of exterior mirrors, but that was dropped for production as Tesla faced the same regulatory issues that Audi now does. Persistent automaker lobbying may clear the path to legalization, but it's unclear how long that will take.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Lexus ES goes on sale in the U.S. (sans camera mirrors) this month. The sedan will be offered in gasoline ES 350 and hybrid ES 300h guises with prices starting from $39,500 and $41,310, respectively.