There is more to mirrors than meets the eye. If you've had a bill for a snapped wing mirror, you'll know what I mean. A high-tech mirror can run into thousands in a premium car.
But why should it? It's just a mirror for goodness sake. Well, actually, it's much more than a mere looking glass.
Among myriad tricks, it can even help to give an air pilot's view of the surrounding traffic.
Indeed, it took me just a few minutes to think of 15 mirror technologies - some common, others emerging.
1. Bifocal vision: Convex section provides a wider (though distorted) view.
2. Electric folding: By press-button, and auto when the car is locked.
3. Electric adjustment: Perfect angles at the touch of a button.
4. Telescopic sight: Mirrors developed by SMR and fitted to Ford F250s electrically extend for towing.
5. Built-in indicators: Added safety.
6. Heating: To demist.
7. Aerodynamic shaping: Looks good, saves fuel and lowers wind noise.
8. Elephant’s memory: Remembers positions of mirrors (and electric seats and steering columns) for three users.
9. Puddle lights: Down-focused LEDs help you watch your step.
10. Blind spot alert: A sensor in the mirror triggers a warning light if a car’s in your blind spot.
11. Head-up display: Information is projected on to the mirror such as: Stay in lane.
12. Safer backing: Mirror angles down when reversing.
13. Video view: When reversing, the mirror becomes a screen, giving a wider-angle view of obstacles.
14. Bird’s-eye view: Wing mirrors house two of four perimeter cameras which provide a virtual top view of the car and close objects in the cabin’s screen. Saves scrapes.
15. 360-degree eyesight: Even more sophisticated, provides a wider top-view image, including surrounding traffic.
We'll go back 100 years, to mirrorless cars. A screen will provide the driver with a helicopter view. The bossy technology will even tell what you should (and shouldn't) do.
The modern side mirror can encase myriad technologies.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of the earliest references to mirrors in cars, other than for checking hairdos, teeth and make-up, is in Dorothy Levitt's 1906 book The Woman and the Car.
It advised women drivers to "carry a little hand-mirror to … hold aloft from time to time in order to see behind".
SHOULD WE CELEBRATE?
Once a wing mirror was a cheap piece of glass in a metal holder.
If it broke, you screwed on a $25 new one. And then the whiz kids got carried away. Now if it breaks it'll probably cost more than your first car did.