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How 360-Degree Camera Systems Turn You Into a Parking Pro
Even the best drivers can struggle to squeeze into tricky parking spots, but 360-degree camera systems can make low-speed scuffs a thing of the past.
Small accidents can be the most frustrating. Whether it’s scraping a wheel on a curb, tapping a bumper on a pole, or opening a door into a wall, low-speed parking impacts can cause minor yet massively annoying damage. Backup cameras are now mandatory on new vehicles, but more visibility is always better. To that end, some automakers install 360-degree camera systems to give a complete view of your surroundings.
What Is A 360-Degree Camera In A Car?
A 360-degree camera system in a car provides you with a real-time view of the area surrounding your car. The 360-degree camera tech combines the perspectives of several video cameras placed around the vehicle into one image, typically a top-down view. As you maneuver into a parking space, the 360-degree camera system shows nearby obstacles, helping you avoid impacts.
What Is A Bird’s Eye View Camera?
A bird’s eye view camera is simply another term used to describe a 360-degree camera. Sometimes you’ll also see 360-degree cameras referred to as a surround-view camera, top-down camera, or around-view camera. They’re different names for the same thing: A camera system that provides you with a look at what’s around your car.
How Does A 360 Degree Camera Work?
A 360-degree camera system doesn’t work with just one camera. Instead, several video cameras are strategically placed around the vehicle, typically on each bumper (within an emblem, in the grille, or near the trunk release), and on either side (underneath the side mirrors, near the corners of the bumpers). When you shift into reverse, or in some vehicles, press a button, the camera array activates. Software interprets the view coming from each camera and stitches them together in one single image on your infotainment screen. So as to avoid distraction, the cameras turn off once the vehicle is moving at traffic speeds.
Some vehicles can display the view from only one of those cameras. For example, the passenger-side camera can show a closer view of the wheels to avoid scraping on a curb. Or, the front camera can show what’s ahead of the hood, like a parking block or off-road obstacles.
Newer 360-degree camera systems take things further. Instead of only providing a top-down or single-side view of the car, they can be adjusted to show different angles of the exterior. It’s as if there’s a camera on a drone, hovering outside your car, switching to the angle you select. Unfortunately, how this tech works isn’t as cool as using flying robots. They simply have more advanced software that combines the views from different cameras into adjustable perspectives, with your vehicle illustrated in the middle.
Can I Install A 360-Degree Camera System In My Car?
Aftermarket kits exist that let you install a 360-degree camera system in your car. They typically include several cameras and a controller that links them all to your car’s infotainment screen. Although aftermarket cameras might provide a better view than a reversing camera (or no camera at all), they can’t match systems installed at the factory.
Auto engineers go to great lengths to perfectly position the cameras, conceal them within the car’s design, and protect them from the environment. More effort is made to combine their views into a clear, seamless image. A 360-degree camera kit you install yourself might not match the clarity or simplicity of a stock system, but it could nonetheless make parking easier.
What Are The Best 360-Degree Camera Systems?
The best 360-degree camera systems provide high-resolution, seamless views of what’s surrounding the vehicle. Among the cars the MotorTrend team has reviewed, we’ve found some favorites.
Those in Hyundai and Kia vehicles are clever; the K900’s provides a corner view of the front wheels to avoid curbing and is easy to adjust from one view to another. We found the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SUV flawed overall, but gave it credit for the easy-access 360-degree camera button on its steering wheel; in contrast, Volvo’s system can take too long to find the on-screen button for, and then activate. Although the resolution isn’t the highest, some Chevrolet trucks make clever use of their cameras to simplify trailering.
Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz 360-degree camera systems have very good resolution. Some provide a multi-angle view of the car’s exterior. Switching between perspectives can make parking easier—or be a way to admire the styling from inside the cabin. Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the camera system in some Land Rover vehicles. It effectively lets you see through the hood at the front wheels and anything in their path.
Cars with 360 Camera 2020
Like any digital camera, you want the 360-degree camera in your car to provide a crisp, clear image. Unfortunately, not all do. Between the cars MotorTrend editors have assessed, we’ve found some of the worst 360-degree cameras in surprising vehicles.
Toyota 360-degree camera systems sometimes lack resolution. You’d think that would improve in its Lexus luxury division, but we’ve found that its version of the tech can slightly distort the image. The Nissan Rogue Sport’s infotainment screen is high resolution, but the camera image is grainy. In the Mazda CX-5, the image is clear, but the screen it’s linked to is too small. Regardless, 360-degree camera systems continue to improve, and are featured in an increasing number of vehicles.
Is A 360-Degree Camera System Worth It?
Although some drivers are better at parking than others, we all feel pain when wheels are curbed and bumpers are scuffed. If you want help avoiding such automotive agony, a 360-degree camera system is worth it. Even though 360-degree cameras are optional extras on most vehicles, the convenience and peace of mind they provide can seem priceless. Nonetheless, a standard backup camera, parking sensors, or simply your skill at sliding into parking spots can be as good as a 360-degree camera, especially if the system isn’t easy or quick to turn on, or if it displays on a screen that’s grainy or too small. Not sure if a 360-degree camera system is worth it? Try one out on a test drive and see for yourself.
Cars with 360 Camera 2020
- Audi: Top view camera system with Virtual 360 View
- BMW: Surround View With 3D View
- Chevrolet: Surround Vision
- Ford: 360-Degree Camera
- Hyundai: Surround View Monitor
- Infiniti: Around View Monitor
- Kia: Surround View Monitor
- Land Rover: 360-Degree Parking Aid; ClearView
- Mazda: 360-Degree View Monitor
- Mercedes-Benz: Surround View System
- Nissan: Around View Monitor
- Toyota: Bird’s Eye View Camera
- Volkswagen: Overhead View Camera (Area View)
- Volvo: 360-Degree Surround View
Safety innovations happen all the time in the automotive industry. One of the most interesting and helpful safety technologies that’s quickly becoming more common is the 360-degree camera. This technology goes by a few different names depending on the automaker. Some call it an “around view monitor” others “surround view camera,” and some simply call it a 360-degree camera. No matter what it’s called, it’s essentially the same thing.
Basically, it’s a recreation of the vehicle’s surroundings from the cameras placed on all sides of the car. This allows the driver to see things they otherwise wouldn’t and makes backing up and maneuvering in tight spaces very easy. Not all cars have this feature and even fewer have it as a standard feature. Luckily, some do on certain trim levels, and the following models are even reasonably priced under $50K.
|PROS: Multiple trim levels have a 360-degree camera as standard equipment, the rest of the vehicle’s cabin offers premium features and materials.CONS: No Around View Monitor on lowest trim level, even as an option.|
The Nissan Murano SL trim level ($37,300 MSRP) is right in the middle of the Murano lineup. Itâ€™s the first trim level that comes with the 360-degree camera as standard equipment. The lower level SV can get it as an optional feature and the lowest level S canâ€™t have it at all. Go the other way up the trim ladder and itâ€™s still standard on the Platinum trim level and the Midnight Edition.
Aside from the 360-degree camera, the Murano SL features a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, an upscale interior and a sleek and wavy exterior with a floating roof effect at the back of the vehicle. Its technology includes an advanced Drive-Assist 7-inch display and a NissanConnect infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and navigation.View Our 2017 Nissan Murano Overview
|PROS: 360-degree camera available on more than one trim level, Sport trim level adds genuinely sporty characteristics to the vehicle.CONS: Two trim levels don’t get a 360-degree camera.|
The Infiniti QX30 only offers a 360 degree camera as a standard feature on the top trim Sport model. The feature is optional on the Premium trim level, too. Any lower trim levels, like the standard qx30 or the Luxury model, is not offered with an Around View Camera.
The QX30 Sport trim level ($38,500 MSRP) comes with sportier suspension, better wheels and brakes, and some other sport-focused exterior and interior touches. In addition to the 360-degree camera, thereâ€™s an Infiniti InTouch infotainment system with a 7-inch display that provides access to Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM Radio, and vehicle information. The QX30 Sport has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.View Our 2017 Infiniti QX30 Overview
|PROS: Tons of additional features included with the trim level that has a standard 360-degree camera.CONS: The Surround View Monitor feature is only provided on one trim level.|
The Kia Cadenza is an underappreciated car for a number of reasons. One of those happens to be that you can get it with a 360-degree camera as standard equipment in the top trim level. The Cadenza Limited ($44,390 MSRP) comes decked out with all kinds of additional features, too. The other trim levels of this wonderful sedan donâ€™t have access to the feature, so if you want it, go with the Limited trim.
In addition to the Surround View Monitor, the car comes with a Harman Kardon QuantumLogic surround sound system, an easy to use UVO infotainment system. The 8-inch touchscreen display gives you access to Sirius XM, HD Radio, UVO eServices, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. The Cadenza Limited also gets a powerful 3.3-liter V6 under the hood that produces 290 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque.View Our 2017 Kia Cadenza Overview
|PROS: Standard 360-degree camera in top trim and availability in bottom trim, family friendly spacious cabin, plenty of other features and amenities in top trim.CONS: Mid-trim vehicle doesn’t get the option for the 360-degree camera.|
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is an interesting vehicle when it comes to its 360-degree camera. The vehicle is offered with a standard multi-view camera system, which is Hyundaiâ€™s wording for the feature, as standard equipment for the top trim level It also offers the feature to the bottom trim level as optional equipment, but itâ€™s unavailable to the middle trim level.
The top trim Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate ($36,500 MSRP) comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood that produces 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Inside the cabin, the Santa Fe Sport has an attractive and easy to use design with some comfy leather heated and ventilated seats and an 8-inch infotainment system with Hyundai BlueLink, Bluetooth, satellite radio, navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.View Our 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Overview
|PROS: Top trim level comes with a lot of additional features other than the Around View Monitor, powerful 300 hp V6 engine.CONS: Only the top trim level offers a 360-degree camera, polarizing exterior styling on all trim levels.|
The Nissan Maxima only has the 360-degree camera feature as standard equipment on the top trim level. Oddly enough, itâ€™s not even offered as an option on the other trim levels of the car. The other trim levels come with several optional packages, but the Nissan Around View Monitor is not one of them.
The Maxima Platinum trim level ($40,040 MSRP) comes with premium Ascot leather-appointed heated and ventilated seats and a modern interior, including a Nissan Connect infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen display that provides access to navigation, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay. The Maxima Platinum is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque.