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From track to road – Audi's digital rear-view mirror

Technology proven at Le Mans goes into series production in the Audi R8 e-tron

Published: August 10, 2012, 8:00 AM

Audi digital rear-view mirror in Audi R8 e-tron

Prior to this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans race, in June, we told you about the digital rear-view mirror in Audi's R18 LMP1 race cars – which subsequently finished 1-2-3.

 
That mirror was a further development of the technology used in backup-camera systems in production cars and we suggested at the time that it could help accelerate use of the concept as a replacement for conventional mirrors in production cars, bringing the idea full-circle.

It's happening.

Audi has revealed that the digital rear-view will go into small-scale production in the Audi R8 e-tron at the end of this year. Like the Le Mans winners, the R8 e-tron has no rear window so a conventional rear-view mirror won't work.

But the digital rear-view mirror – a combined camera/monitor system with an electronic control unit – will work well.

A small, ultra-lightweight camera is located in an aerodynamically optimized housing that is heated in cold temperatures. It uses a lens with a diameter of just a few millimeters and covers a much larger field of vision than a conventional rear-view mirror. 

A colour monitor with a 7.7-inch screen mounted in place of a conventional rear-view mirror is used displays the digital image data from the camera. Its AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) display, which comes from development partner Samsung Display Co., LTD, is making its debut in a passenger car in this application. 

The organic materials used in the display are self-illuminating at a low voltage, which means they require no backlighting. The technology has already proved widely successful in cell phones and similar devices in the consumer segment.

The new displays are more energy-efficient, thinner, and lighter than conventional LCD monitors. Switching times are just a few milliseconds irrespective of the ambient temperature.

Audi says the control unit ensures a consistent high-contrast, brilliant image and prevents dazzle from the headlights of other vehicles when it's dark. The driver can dim or deactivate the display at any time. 

The company says it is also working on incorporating additional information on the monitor in future.

It doesn't make any mention of expanding the digital mirror's use to other vehicles, but if it proves successful in this road-going application you can bet it's going to happen.