The arrival of the new electric SUV may also mark the advent of cameras replacing mirrors on cars.
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The Audi E-Tron not only marks the brand's first pure-electric SUV, it's also the first passenger car in Australia to offer cameras instead of side mirrors.

The unusual technology, called 'Audi virtual exterior mirrors', is optional on the E-Tron range, but standard on First Edition models.

It sees the familiar exterior mirrors replaced by an integrated small camera which digitally projects information into the cabin through a 7.0-inch display at the base of the A-pillars.

The idea is to offer better aerodynamics and less wind noise and aerodynamic drag – which in turn preserves battery life – as well as improving vision in lower light.

But, as CarAdvice editor Trent Nikolic wrote in his launch review of the E-Tron, it can take some getting used to.

"I found myself initially looking where the mirror has always been when changing lanes, for example, but you quickly get used to it. The resolution of the image itself is excellent," Editor Nikolic wrote.

According to Audi Australia's Shaun Cleary, the technology has already proven "very popular" in other markets, but there are no plans to roll it out across the non-electric side of Audi's range.

"At this stage, we have developed it for the unique requirements of a full-electric vehicle such as the E-Tron," Mr Cleary said.

While Audi's new electric SUV is certainly the first passenger car in Australia to offer the unusual side mirror set-up, it's not the first time we've seen this technology on our roads.

The capability actually debuted as an option on the Mercedes-Benz Actros truck earlier this year, with Mercedes calling the technology MirrorCam.

Since then, Mercedes has seen around 50 per cent of buyers opt for the $3000 option.

"We have some very enthusiastic customers who just love it and we have some people who tried it in a demo truck and decided they wanted to stick to what they know and order the Actros with regular mirrors. We are pleased to be able to offer the customers the choice," James Stanford, head of public relations for Daimler's Truck and Bus division, said.

"There are two key benefits of MirrorCam. One is the increased vision. Truck mirrors are naturally large, so they can block a lot of vision at intersections... the MirrorCam opens up the field of view," Mr Stanford explained.

"The second is fuel economy. We don’t have enough data to show how much drag can be reduced and how much fuel can be saved in Australia (and it would depend on application, load etc) but we understand there will be savings. In the world of road transport, where fuel costs are such a big part of the cost of doing business, any saving is valuable."

Mercedes said the higher positioning of the cameras also "not only ensures excellent visibility, it also gets much less dirty in this position than the lower glass mirror" and the lenses have a "water-repellent coating".

While Mercedes-Benz Australia's Product Communications Manager Ryan Lewis said there were currently no plans to roll this technology out across passenger cars, he said it wouldn't be out of the question.

"We look into all emerging technologies and investigate their application and relevance and potential advantages," Mr Lewis said.

The side mirror cameras may be new, but similar products have been offered in Australia before, most notably in the form of the ClearSight mirror offered on Land Rover models like the new Defender and Discovery Sport.

Available as an optional extra, the ClearSight rear vision mirror can be digitally augmented via footage captured from a roof-mounted camera, in order to circumvent any visibility issues caused by a packed boot or a third person in the front row of Defender models.

This technology also extends to the bonnet of the car, which can also utilise ClearVision technology to effectively become see-through, offering off-roaders the chance to see the terrain beneath the car.

Jaguar Land Rover has already announced ClearVision will be offered on the 2021 Evoque, but there are plans to extend the technology across other models in the Land Rover and Jaguar line-up in the near future.

Once the province of high-tech concept cars, it appears technology that augments, or even replaces, reality is now becoming commonplace on Australian cars.

And while Mercedes and Audi might have been first to the cameras-as-side-mirrors concept, we have a feeling they certainly won't be last.