Here’s how your car’s 360-degree cameras give you that bird’s eye view

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360-degree cameras have changed the way we drive, manoeuvre and park our cars. But, while many South Africans have come to rely on this piece of tech, there is little understanding surrounding how they actually work. We took long, hard look at the equipment to give you a better view of how it all works.

360-degree cameras: How do they work?

Essentially this piece of tech combines the efforts of cameras that are mounted all over your car.  There are normally four cameras – displaying a rear, front, left and right camera view – and they boast very wide-angle lenses. This is because the idea is to show the motorist as much information about what is happening around the car as possible.

Back camera

One of the cars boasting this piece of tech, is the refreshed Volvo XC60 and, in the case of this car, the rear-facing camera is fitted above the registration plate, the forwards-facing camera is located in the grille and the side cameras are positioned in each door mirror. The locations are common to other vehicles too.

The rear-facing camera shows a wide area behind the car. Sometimes, part of the bumper can be seen, as well as the towbar. Objects shown in the centre display may appear slightly tilted — this is perfectly normal.

Front and side cameras

The camera at the front is obviously very good at showing what lies ahead. It can be helpful on an exit road with limited visibility to the sides (for instance, when there are high hedges on the side of the road). It is active at speeds up to 25km/h – and then it automatically switches off. However, if the car’s speed does not reach 50km/h and the speed falls below 22km/h within one minute after the forward-facing camera has been switched off, the camera is automatically reactivated.

The two side cameras show what is happening along each side of the car.

Bird’s eye view

The bird’s eye 360-degree view comes courtesy of all those camera feeds that then work together and – thanks to some rather nifty software – combine to give the holistic view that is displayed on the car’s infotainment screen. It actually looks as though the car is being filmed from above – but this is obviously not what’s happening in reality.

Now isn’t that smart?