By Choi Sun-min
“Simple can be harder than complex.” This is a famous quote from the late Steve Jobs. Innovation comes from simple ideas.
The cars in science fiction movies like “Minority Report,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Fifth Element,” etc., all have something in common. There are no mirrors outside the car. If a car can be driven in the sky, how can drivers see what’s behind them?
When you think about it, side-view mirrors are really inconvenient. When you park your car in a narrow space, you always worry about hitting the mirror on the next car or a wall. And when you check traffic in a mirror, there are blind spots on the sides. Almost as importantly, the aesthetics of the car are marred by mirrors. So if you remove mirrors from cars, this is what cars of the future look like, at least as envisioned by sci-fi movie directors.
Now we know what the substitute for mirrors is. It’s a camera. Thanks to improvements in camera technology, you can see behind you without any blind spot right there on the heads-up display of a car windshield without glancing to the side. You can have a beautiful, perfectly streamlined car as well.
But this idea was impossible until recently. That is not because of technical issues but legal ones. Under Article 29 (4) of the Motor Vehicle Management Act, the safety standards of motor vehicles and automotive parts are determined by ordinances of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and these did not originally allow for mirror-less cars in Korea. Only vehicles equipped with mirrors could be driven on the road.
The location and viewing angle of these mirrors were also prescribed by the standards, for safety reasons. Only from 2016, under the most recent revision of standards, are methods of indirect vision ― including cameras ― permitted. It’s the same in other countries. International Standard ISO 16505:2015, together with the latest version of United Nations regulation No. 46, has permitted camera monitoring systems (CMS) to replace conventional mandatory automotive mirrors from 2016.
Isn’t it interesting that this simple idea of a mirror-less car would not have become a reality without a change in the law? New technology enables imagination to become real, but the law makes it realistic. If you have a marvelous idea, quickly look up the related regulations. Or if you don’t have an idea yet, search the regulations first. That might give you some clues.
Choi Sun-min is a junior associate at HMP Law and a member of the Tech & Comms team.