I wasn’t impressed by 360-degree cameras before, but now I am

Let me start this anecdote with a full disclaimer: I am for in-car technologies of modern times. I love how they make things convenient for the driver and passengers, making sure that owners enjoy each and every journey with their beloved cars. I’m not one of those tech snobs who think cars should remain as mechanical machines.

However, I wasn’t so much into 360-degree cameras. I didn’t think they’re necessary, superfluous even. I was a firm believer that it’s still safer to use your actual mirrors (and your instinctive measurement of distance) when maneuvering a vehicle within a tight space.

But after a quick drive with the newly-launched Nissan Navara before its launch last weekend, that notion has changed. While the quick test drive was actually focused on the truck’s off-roading capabilities and the fact that the facelifted model looks really good by itself, what stood out in the manmade course was Nissan’s around-view monitor (AVM).

Of note, this isn’t the first time that Nissan has rolled out its 360-degree cameras on its cars. It was first announced in 2007 globally and entered the Philippine shores in 2018 together with the all-new Terra, which launched the automaker’s Nissan Intelligent Mobility campaign in the country, touting its suite of high-tech features spearheaded by the AVM.

Real-time camera feed

One of the best things about Nissan Navara’s AVM was its real-time camera feed displayed on the 8-inch touchscreen at the center of the dashboard. It’s almost as if you’re looking at a mirror, which is something that most cars don’t have these days. Even better, the front and rear camera displays have a guideline that showed the width of the truck and followed my steering input. 

There was a section in the quick test course wherein I had to shoehorn the Navara into a tight space riddled with plants on both sides. I was even tasked to perpendicularly park the vehicle at a tight parking spot without looking at the mirrors and solely relying on the cameras. There was also a very steep ramp towards the end of the course, which totally removed my view of the ground as the Navara pointed towards the sky.

All three were a cinch, mind you, thanks to the cameras and the cool bird’s eye view monitor.

An extra eye on invisible corners

There’s one major reason why I am not a fan of huge vehicles. Apart from decreased driving dynamics and pleasure in high-riding cars, I don’t want to trouble myself with the anxiety of damaging the vehicle’s invisible corner.

I’m talking about the bottom right-hand corner of the front bumper, which, more often than not, is completely hidden out of the driver’s sight. I’m sure SUV and truck owners would know.

On the Navara, however, that bottom right-hand bumper corner is one of the focus of the AVM. You can toggle through the view options and you’ll find it there like an extra pair of eyes watching that blind spot. And just like the other cameras, the feed was real-time, which increased my confidence as I went through the tight course.

Night mode, because why not?

As a teenager, have you ever tried sneaking out of your house at night to party with your friends? I did, and I really wish that our car was equipped with Nissan’s AVM with night mode (yes, we used to own a Nissan Sentra). I would have not been grounded several times back then if I did.

During the test drive, there was a part of the course called the “Dark Tunnel,” which was literally a made up tunnel covered in thick black blankets. It was almost pitch black, but the instructor had me switch off the automatic headlights and look at the camera feed.

Yes, the camera has a night mode that automatically switched on as soon as the environment got dark – perfect for dark alleys and covered garages. If our car had this back then, it would have saved me a sizable cut on my allowance.

Final thoughts

Granted, the Navara’s infotainment system doesn’t have the best resolution your money can buy, but the practicality it brings to the table supersedes that shortcoming. Gone were the days when driving a large truck and SUV meant unwanted anxiety of scraping your bumpers with unseen obstacles. 

I still think 360-degree around-view monitors aren’t essential. But if your budget permits and the car you’re eyeing comes with them as standard, they’re a huge plus and definitely a helpful tool to keep your car in tip-top shape.

In fact, don’t take my word on this. I encourage you to try the new Navara and its AVM yourself, starting on April 14, 2021. Just visit the nearest Nissan dealership to schedule your test drive.

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