Tesla Motors and the 12-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers -- which represents carmakers like General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen) has filed a petition with the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to permit them to scrap side mirrors in favor of cameras. Side mirrors are required by a US regulation known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111.
Tesla and the Alliance claim that cameras could provide as much safety as side mirrors while offering gains in aerodynamics. Side mirrors typically protrudes from the car, which creates drag. Tesla and the Alliance said in their petition that “in light of future greenhouse gas” and corporate average fuel economy requirements beginning in 2017, camera-based systems provides an opportunity to improve fuel efficiency through enhanced aerodynamics achieved by ditching externally mounted mirrors.
The proposal comes as NHTSA finalized rules requiring rearview cameras in all light-duty vehicles built after mid-2018. Tesla believes that the driving range of its electric vehicles can be extended by eliminating side mirrors. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has personally spoken about the idea with regulators, according to news reports.
“You can argue with them, but not with much success,” Musk told Fresh Dialogues, a Silicon Valley Web program, in a February 2013 interview. Musk said in the interview that Tesla had commenced asking changing the rules two years ago.
The original concept version of the Tesla Model X crossover unveiled in 2012 has cameras instead of side mirrors. However, when the ensuing concept was shown at the 2013 Detroit auto show, it donned traditional side mirrors. [source: automotive news - sub. required]