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Keeping vehicle cameras clean important for functionality

Kia took camera and computer technology to the next level in its 2020 Telluride SUV. - Kia
Kia took camera and computer technology to the next level in its 2020 Telluride SUV. - Kia

Almost every new vehicle on the market now has a backup camera, providing drivers with additional safety and convenience. Camera and computer technology can do much more than that however and cameras are being used in innovative ways.
 
The first Honda Civic I drove with the passenger side view camera display made me a believer in camera technology. Signal a lane change and the display in the centre of the dash shows a wide angle view of  the roadway and traffic beside you. Not only is the view much wider and clearer than the conventional outside mirror, it also includes coloured lines indicating the position of vehicles. 

If a vehicle is in the red line zone, it is unsafe to change lanes, while one in the green line zone is far enough back so you can change lanes safely. Honda has improved on this feature by making the view available simply by pressing a button on the signal stalk. No need to signal a lane change just to take a look.
 
Kia recently took this technology a step further in the 2020 Telluride SUV. Signal a lane change and the camera on each side of the vehicle provides a view of the lane on the instrument cluster screen. Left or right signal, you get a view that lets you easily determine whether the lane is clear. You should also shoulder check before changing lanes but the camera display makes it easier to decide if it is possible without having to take your eyes off the traffic ahead. 
 
There is one problem with these camera technologies however: dirt and moisture. If the camera lens is dirty, then the images displayed are not clear. Camera position is designed to keep water and dirt away from the lens but in wet and slushy environments, this can be difficult. It is not always convenient to stop and clean the camera lens, so outside mirrors and shoulder checking are still important. 
 
General Motors uses the rear view camera in a different manner. The inside rear view mirror is the display for the camera. First introduced in the 2016 Cadillac CT6, and now optional on several GM models, this rear view camera system has received several improvements in its 2nd generation design. First, this high definition display has increased resolution from 1,280 x 240 pixels in Generation 1 to 1,440 x 300 pixels in this current design. 

Also, because the image is provided from the back of the vehicle, there are no obstructions such as headrests, passengers or packages to block the rearward vision. The display shows a wide angle view that is four times larger than what you can see out of a conventional inside rear view mirror and there is the added bonus in that you don’t have to adjust the angle of the mirror for different drivers. The image in the mirror shows the same view no matter what angle the actual mirror is placed, so set it once and it is good for all drivers. 
 
The current Rear Camera Mirror has a frameless design so there is less blocking of forward vision, a tilt/position adjustment of the camera, a zoom function and increased brightness adjustment for greater clarity. At night, the display is clear and shows a much better view of what is behind or beside the vehicle than a conventional mirror. 

If you have this feature in a GM SUV or crossover, the camera lens is washed every time you use the rear window washer. If there is ever a problem with the system or the camera lens is obstructed, the driver can simply switch to a conventional rear view mirror by pushing the tab on the bottom of the mirror. 
 
These are only a few examples of how camera and computer technology are changing the way we drive. Piloting a few thousand kilogram vehicle down the road is a serious task and the better visibility the driver has, the better they can accomplish that task safely.

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