TechnologyTell

The Highlander Saga: Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s Low-Tech Surveillance Solution

Sections: Car Safety, Chassis

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2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Photo Shoot 061

Our 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s baby surveillance mirror is low-tech, sure, but well-designed– and much-appreciated by parents everywhere. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Some will go to great lengths to help a driver see what’s going on behind them. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid we tested had a much simpler way of doing things.

Any parent reading this surely knows what I’m talking about: Kids are difficult to drive with, sometimes. The phrase “distracted driving” may get tossed around a lot for cell phones and the like, but truth be known, children have been distracting parents from the task of safely navigating our streets since the days of the Model T.

Sure, it’s some help that today’s child safety seats effectively pin the young ‘uns down in their seats. I can’t imagine the level of distraction that would ensue if my boy was able to wander about the car, standing on the seats and crawling around on the floorboards as my dad has told me he used to do in his youth. Child safety seats also have the happy side-effect of increasing the likelihood our little ones survive a car crash, in the unfortunate event they must endure one.

The thing about this safer, pinned-down seating position is it renders the child wholly unable to reach beyond arm’s length. For anything. Ever. Which sends some children– I’ll not name names, but let’s call them “my son,”– into a squealing fit. That, in turn, sends parents– again, not naming names, but let’s call them “me”– fighting the urge to turn around immediately to try fixing the issue so the fire alarm irate child is silenced once more.

Sure, this is the age of the rear-view video monitor. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a car company appealing to the frazzled nerves of distracted parents like me by offering the equivalent of a video baby monitor app for the built-in infotainment screens many cars have nowadays. All you’d have to install would be a small video camera bug on the headliner somewhere pointed in the general direction of your brood’s accommodations in the rear row(s) of your vehicle. But surely that’s more complex than it has to be, right?

Right. Which is why Toyota included the spiffy little convex mirror pictured at the top of this article in the 2013 Highlander Hybrid we tested. And to be honest, it’s just about the best use of a sunglass holder I’ve ever seen– because at least in our family, sunglasses almost never go in there.

When you first press the sunglass holder, it lowers all the way, as you would expect. But if you notice the big mirror when you’re pushing it back closed– as I did when testing out all the cubbies in the Highlander Hybrid– you’ll quickly realize there’s a little catch halfway to closing the little plastic door. This allows you to see all the rear seats in the Highlander– and all your children’s smiling faces. Or their screaming, angry faces. Whatever. At least you’ll be able to see whatever it is they’re reaching for in the seat next to them and quickly– without turning around and taking your eyes off the road– return it to their grasp.

It’s not a cure-all for distracted parents. Some things are, after all, out of the mirror’s view. However, it’s a solid effort at giving us parents a little help. Having used it for most of our test week while I hauled around my son, it is my opinion that no car– especially no car with a sunglass holder trapdoor above the inside rearview mirror– should be without a baby mirror.

Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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  • R

    That is some old tech. I have that in my 2002 Nissan Quest.

    • Brett Solomon

      Some old tech is good tech. I have seen it on the Chrysler T&C / Dodge Grand Caravan / VW Routan triplets. But, whether it be a baby monitor in the infotainment system or a convex mirror, always do your best to keep your eyes on the road ahead and not the baby in the back. Only quick glimpses please. Too many parents become fixated on the baby. This is one advantage of extended rear-facing car seats…out of sight and you can concentrate on the driving at hand!