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There are a lot of cool ideas in McLaren and JVCKenwood’s Digital Cockpit System, and some of them could be in production cars within two years. Not all of them are new but having them all in one car shows the potential for the technologies.

JVCKenwood has been making radios for the McLaren Formula 1 team for 23 years. This year’s grand prix at COTA represented the two companies’ 400th race as partners. So consider this just one more collaboration.

The coolest thing is the high-definition rear view mirror system. Rather than traditional glass mirrors, which require that a driver takes his eyes off the road for a second or two to glance at them, the Digital Cockpit System uses video cameras that are displayed on three small screens directly above the traditional instrument cluster atop the steering wheel. JVCKenwood says the screens not only remain visible in bright sunlight, but present their imagery in almost real time, something other systems don’t do.

“To compress signal from camera to display takes some time,” said JVCKenwood ceo Haruo Kawahara, speaking at CES. “So our visual technology decreased the time it takes (to compress the signal) to a minimum of a very few milliseconds, less than 1/10th of the current technology.”

Having the screen right in front of the driver means less head and eye movement is necessary to see what’s behind you, and every movement counts at 150 mph.

In track mode, the head up display shows gear position and a shift indicator, among other data.

The main display is reconfigurable depending on where and how you’re driving your McLaren. In track mode there’s a big tach right in the middle. Also in track mode the screen on the driver’s left in this right hand-drive car shows a map of the track and your position on it.

Cadillac hi-def mirror

Take the system out of track mode and the screen at your elbow reverts to a more conventional infotainment mode, allowing you to display navigation and audio data on the main screen above the steering column. The HUD then shows speed limit data, navigation directions and even pedestrians via the night vision option (the latter is also good for those 24-hour races out in the country).

We got to try it out, sort of, by sitting in the McLaren 650S Spider in the JVCKenwood booth at CES. At first it seemed like a lot of screens, but once you figured out that the three in the middle were your rear view mirrors, it all made sense.

When might we see this in a real car?

“We have completed development of this system so therefore we are ready to have commercialization of it,” said Kawahara. “However, to start actual mass production of this system it takes a lead time of one or two years. I think the earliest you’d see it is 2017.”

That’s assuming that governments around the world permit cameras to replace glass mirrors, which they are slow to do. So maybe race cars will get the technology first. Kawahara did say the smaller cameras reduce drag and increase fuel mileage and top speed. Let’s hope we get to drive one on a real road – or track – soon.