All those super-cool concept cars with tiny cameras instead of giant, traditional mirrors? They might actually reach a showroom near you soon. The Japanese government has approved using external cameras in place of normal mirrors, and Automotive News reports that the first production units will launch this year.

Updated regulations in Japan permitted the camera systems to replace mirrors earlier this year, and Japanese supplier Ichikoh Industries is already supplying one such system for a Japanese car that launches in August, Automotive News reports. Ichikoh reportedly expects 29 percent of all new cars sold in Japan to have replaced regular external mirrors with camera systems by 2023.

The big advantage of a tiny camera rather than a large mirror is not just styling, but also a reduction in weight and wind resistance. A display inside the car would show drivers the view behind them, without requiring a bulky mirror. Such a design has long been a staple of futuristic cars, like the BMW i8 Mirrorless concept pictured here, in part because it can significantly cut aerodynamic drag, improving fuel efficiency. Plus, it just looks cool.

Though American regulators have yet to approve fully replacing mirrors with cameras, a few automakers are experimenting with camera-based rearview mirrors. Nissan has shown off its Smartview mirror that alternates between regular reflective glass and a wide-angle camera view, and the Cadillac CT6 likewise offers a mirror that can switch between the two operating modes. BMW has also hinted cameras could replace mirrors by 2019.

Source: Automotive News

Gallery: BMW hints cameras could replace mirrors starting 2019

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