The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finalized a new rule that will require rearview cameras on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by 2018. The agency says the measure will improve safety by curtailing “backover” accidents. The new rule – which applies to buses and trucks, as well as passenger cars manufactured beginning in May 2018 – mandates “rear visibility technology” that expands the driver’s field of view to help avoid crashes, according to a statement from NHTSA. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx observed:
Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors.
Under the rule, the camera’s field of view must cover a 10-foot-by-20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle, and the systems must also meet standards for image size, linger time, response time, durability and deactivation. Each year, on average, backover accidents result in 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries in the U.S., with children younger than 5 and adults older than 70 accounting for 31 percent and 26 percent of the deaths, respectively, according to NHTSA studies.
The agency said it had moved deliberately on the new rule to make it “flexible and achievable,” noting that many automakers have decided on their own to add such camera systems in response to consumer demand. Factoring in cars that already have the cameras, NHTSA estimates that as many as 69 lives will be saved each year once all new vehicles comply with the rule. David Friedman, the Acting Administrator at NHTSA, said in a statement:
Rear visibility requirements will save lives and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur.
However, equipping the roughly one-quarter of the U.S. vehicle fleet that is expected to still be without rearview cameras in 2018 will come at a significant cost to auto manufacturers. According to NHTSA, it will cost as much as $142 per vehicle to install both cameras and in-dashboard displays, or up to $45 per vehicle for just the cameras, with total costs for carmakers running between $546 million and $620 million annually.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a leading trade group for the automobile industry, said in a statement that it hopes the new rule will open the door for expanded use of cameras. The group said it’s petitioning the NHTSA to allow car manufacturers to offer cameras as an option to replace traditional rearview and side-view mirrors. The Alliance had this to say:
Today’s mirrors provide a robust and simple means to view the surrounding areas of a vehicle. Cameras will open opportunities for additional design flexibility and innovation.
Prior to finalizing the rule, the NHTSA had already been promoting the technology through its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which recommends advanced safety technologies for consumers to consider when shopping for a new car. NHTSA says the NCAP program — best known for its five-star safety ratings – is also touting features such as forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems.
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