Reader Question: Nanny Mirrors?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mark writes: I was just reading your piece about various annoying nanny safety features in new cars, such as lane keep assist. I was wondering if you’ve heard of a feature I first encountered last week in a rental Chrysler 300. I noticed that whenever I would put the car in reverse, the drivers side mirror would rotate down, as if to prevent the driver from using it while backing. The center and passenger-side rear view mirrors were not affected. Putting the car in drive would restore the mirror to its original position. It seemed so weird to me I was wondering if it was an intentional safety feature or just a quirky malfunction.

My reply: Actually, those mirrors are working correctly – and it’s a common feature in new cars.  The idea is to give you a better view of the curb area along the side of the car as you back-up, but in my experience they can reduce your view because proper mirror adjustment  is specific to the individual behind the wheel and the programmed movement cannot be other than one-size-fits-all.

But I’m more annoyed by the peremptory aspect of this and similar stuff. Meaning, if I want the mirror (or anything else) to do something, I’ll do it myself – when I decide to. The nanny aspect of these mirrors is their peremptoriness and presumption. I’m not opposed to such equipment for those who want it, but I wish it were all optional and thus avoidable.

Finally, there’s the reasonable – to me – objection that here we have one more example of something very simple made complex; something easy and inexpensive to repair has been made difficult and costly to fix. Instead of a simple cable mechanism, an electric motor and switches – each probably not cheap and very likely to not last the life of the vehicle.

But these gadgets appeal to lots of people, apparently – and they do help justify the titanic cost of new cars!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I’ve had many vehicles with this feature, and it has been universally helpful. In most cases, if you have your mirrors set correctly (i.e., you can see littl or none of the side of your car), they point nicely down to the curb. I suspect this is the car manufacturers’ apology for giving us so much smaller mirrors today than a generation or two ago. I also think it is a tacit apology for having such huge wheels and thin sidewalks on modern tires making curbing a wheel, even in most pickups today, a much riskier proposition.

    I would predict this feature will start disappearing with the now mandatory backup cameras and, I would guess, soon to be mandatory 360-degree cameras.

    In every vehicle I’ve had with this feature, across a wide range of makes and models, foreign and domestic, it was easily turned off or on by the driver. This usually involved simply setting the electric mirror adjuster to neutral selection rather than leaving it set for left or right mirror adjustment. In on case, this was enabled/disabled in a menu in the driver information center.

    • You Can get pickups with 17 wheels and high profile tires but the lot queens won’t have them. The reason 17’s are required now is due to the side of the brakes.

  2. Eric,

    I’m with you; if I want the mirror adjusted, I’ll do it MYSELF, thank you very much! Besides, depending on the situation, who’s to say you’ll always adjust the same mirror all the time? Sometimes I’ll adjust the passenger side mirror, and other times I’ll adjust the driver side mirror; it all depends on what I need to do at that time. In any case, I don’t want the car deciding for me; that’s a decision best left in the driver’s hands.

    • If I can see the side of my vehicle then the mirrors are too far in. I know what the side looks like but the average driver, for whatever reason, likes to hang out in the blindspot.

      I went to work several years ago for a construction company mainly hauling aggregate. Always in tight places and my tractor had no spot mirror on the passenger side. After a few hours I’d had all I could stand and told the owner I needed a spot mirror. Next trip he jumps up on the first step and hands me a mirror. It’s a 3.5″ flat mirror. I said thanks, chunked it into my trucking bucket and left…..went straight to the parts supply, bought a 6″ spot mirror and installed it.

      This is just one of the many problems of driving a truck for someone who never has.

      Brian can probably elucidate driving for a non driver and the truck they’ll buy.

      I recently had a company send me a missive wanting me to drive for them. They made a point of showing their rigs that were all new 389 Peterbilts with big sleepers and W900L Kenworths. We know what you want they said. Damn, they really were buying trucks drivers want.


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