What do we think?

Here are our thoughts after experiencing six MirrorCam Mercs in a row…

Gavin’s thoughts

In October 2019, MirrorCam won its engineers the biennial Professor Ferdinand Porsche Prize, which is awarded by the Vienna University of Technology to engineers who have made awe-inspiring contributions in vehicle development. And there’s no doubting MirrorCam is an impressive system. I’d have loved to have experienced it for myself from behind the wheel, but the point of this exercise wasn’t for us to evaluate it and give our verdict. It was to see it in real- life operation with the people who use it every day and report theirs.

In that context, it showed its virtues in almost all our encounters – the added functionality over a standard mirror, especially when coupled with a semi-trailer, is obvious. However, it also showed some drawbacks. Mainly, these were to do with its use in the dark and its ability to adapt to rapidly changing light conditions. No doubt, as the technology evolves, these concerns will be addressed.

Mercedes-Benz’s approach with MirrorCam was to improve visibility and, therefore, safety. In that context, I think it succeeds. Its ability to automatically vary the angle and view, coupled with the highlighting of space on the road and vehicles alongside, allows the driver to judge their surroundings quickly and accurately and decide whether it’s okay to move. The system impressively reduces blind spots, its current shortcomings in changing light and dark conditions aside.

So, is it something truly worthwhile, or just technology for the sake of it? It may sound like a copout, but I’m still undecided. And it seems the driver pool is too; some swear they’ll never go back, others can take it or leave it. And we know there are some applications where it just does not work at all. However, in the correct applications, it must be worthwhile – otherwise it wouldn’t be here in the first place. And I’m always of the opinion that having the option can only be a good thing.

Dave’s thoughts

For me, outlining what the operators do – and their approach – set the scene for their summation of MirrorCam. My three – TSL on spreading, SM Lowe working in contracting, and Kevin Hartley’s big 3263 log unit – probably had the more challenging gigs in terms of the elements and physical environment.

Therefore, it was interesting to find such enthusiastic support among my trio. Rodney Heenan and his boss Wayne Williams at TSL, and Kevin Hartley in Taranaki were MirrorCam advocates, citing the low light capabilities, visibility, and lack of contamination as real pluses.

That was a great strike rate and hats off to M-B’s development teams. As humans, as much as we say we embrace change, the truth is the bulk of us usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming into new worlds.

For me, though, the question I pose concerns the planet. Is this sort of technology what the globe needs right now? What’s the energy in versus benefit from mirrorless trucks (and you’ll note I’ve gone for mirrorless at a generic level here)? Yes, we can do it, and yes, it appears a great tool in the right application. But is there a true net benefit in outcome once resources consumed and manufacturing costs are encompassed? And what’s the opportunity cost of the resources and time taken to research, develop, test, manufacture, and distribute it? What could we have done with all that time, money, and brainpower? Were mirrors that much of a historical catastrophe in terms of a causation of human motoring misery?

I think as mankind moves forward, we need to become a lot more critical of where the R&D dollar is spent. I think marketing needs to become the result of R&D decisions rather than a key driver. I think cool is important – but more so in a literal sense, looking ahead.

But it’s here now, and it’s not going away. Therefore, a return to the fundamental question for the moment. Did I like it? Yes, I did. But it’s a work in progress in some circumstances, for sure.

Special thanks

Many folk in all corners of the country willingly cooperated to make this cover special happen.

Relaince Transport
Grant and Mike Darrah and Mac Moradi

Carr & Haslam
Chris Carr and Andrew Porter

KB Hartly Transport Ltd
Kevin Hartley

Perry Metal Protection
Steve Halse, Angela
Williams and
Bonty Ranapiri

SM Lowe Contracting
Jonathon and Selwyn Lowe

Transport Services Ltd
Wayne Williams and Rodney Heenan