2018 Nissan Armada features a ‘magic’ rear view mirror

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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Until you've seen the digital rear view mirror on the 2018 Nissan Armada, you might not believe it's that helpful. 

In a recent test, asking people to walk behind and to the side of the massive SUV (price tag is $46,090), the concept made perfect sense and paints a clear picture of what future cars might offer in terms of additional safety perks.

One thing to mention right away is that you can use a normal rear view mirror, which hasn't changed much since the first passenger cars rolled off the assembly line many decades ago. (Rear view mirrors were invented by a guy named Elmer Berger in 1921.) 

Yet, with a quick flip of a small lever below the mirror, you can “go digital” in about one second. The wide angle camera is located on the lift-gate, and the basic idea is that you can still see behind the car even if you have piled up a bunch of luggage in the back, a few kids, and the family pet.

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

What makes it unique, though, is that you can see so far to the side of the Armada. 

Imagine sitting in a normal suburban driveway that’s wide enough for two cars. With the Armada parked dead center, you can see people standing off about three feet in the grass, well beyond the edge of the driveway. As a car passes, you can see it in full view and watch as it drives pass.

The advantage is more than just seeing objects, people, and cars when your view is blocked. The Intelligent Rear View Mirror is so wide that you might decide to use it at all times, skipping the version that you’ve likely used since you first started driving. 

The reason is that the image is crisp and clear, you can see more, and you never have to think about obstructions.

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

The mirror itself is fairly limited in terms of features and customizations. You can use digital controls to sync to your garage door opener, setting defaults for up to three stalls. And, you can press the menu button to configure the brightness setting.

A few years ago, a major automaker showed me a demo of a rear view mirror that connected two drivers together over Skype. It doesn’t really make sense – you can’t look up and chat for more than a few seconds. 

This was long before anyone was that serious about autonomous driving. Today, while it always feels “just on the horizon” amid setbacks like fatal collisions and near misses, there’s still a hope that highly intelligent cars can avoid tricky situations, steer out of trouble, and avoid collisions with other equally intelligent cars. 

In highly orchestrated traffic conditions, multiple driverless cars could sense the location of every other car.

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

There’s a hint of that with the Armada. As you glance up and see someone walking in your path, you realize a normal rear view mirror doesn't show enough of a wide angle. 

Bots also have a wider view, and scan 360-degrees around a car at all times, never glancing away and never pausing to look down at a phone. It’s a nirvana state because video surveillance and safety features in cars today will pave the way for fully autonomous driving at some point.

For now, it’s just a way to see a kid on a skateboarder a few feet farther to the side.

Take a closer look at the 2018 Nissan Armada in the gallery below:

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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy
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Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

Photo credit: Josiah Bondy

On The Road is TechRadar's regular look at the futuristic tech in today's hottest cars. John Brandon, a journalist who's been writing about cars for 12 years, puts a new car and its cutting-edge tech through the paces every week. One goal: To find out which new technologies will lead us to fully driverless cars.