Sony sells the XA-R800C wide-view, rear-view camera for use in trucks, cars, and SUVs.

Backover Technology to Be Phased In, NHTSA Says

The agency believes the best currently available technology is rear-view video cameras, but its proposal leaves manufacturers free to use other means to achieve visibility by drivers of the area immediately behind their vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published its proposed requirement Tuesday for phasing in technology so the drivers of passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, and low-speed vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less can see the area immediately behind their vehicles. Providing it can prevent what NHTSA estimates to be an annual average of 292 deaths and 18,000 injuries (3,000 of which are incapacitating). Forty-four percent of those who die in them are children younger than five; most of the incidents occur off public roadways in areas such as driveways and parking lots and involve parents or caregivers accidentally backing over children, according to the agency.

This plan has been discussed in public meetings and was the subject of a comment period. Commenters and NHTSA considered additional mirrors, cameras, and sensors; the agency agreed rear-view video cameras are the best technology now available but wants to let vehicle manufacturers propose whatever technologies will suffice. (Ford Motor Co. announced Dec. 3 that its Rear View Camera System will be available on nearly all Ford and Lincoln models by the end of 2011. The system uses an exterior camera that is housed in the rear of the vehicle and provides a video display either in the rear-view mirror or the navigation system screen.)

The phase-in schedule by which vehicles must be so equipped was published Tuesday:

  • 0 percent of vehicles manufactured before Sept. 1, 2012
  • 10 percent of vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2012, and before Sept. 1, 2013
  • 40 percent of vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2013, and before Sept. 1, 2014
  • 100 percent of vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2014

"We invite comment on how to provide as much leadtime as possible within the limits of the statute," NHTSA said. "Specifically, should the agency change the structure of the phase-in schedule to allow for more flexibility and ease of implementation? We note that the statute explicitly requires an expanded field of view for all light vehicles and that there are substantial differences in the effectiveness of available technologies. Accordingly, the agency is proposing performance requirements that would trigger the installation of expensive technologies such as video camera systems for these vehicles. In view of the need to expand the field of view for all vehicles and the statutory requirements set forth by Congress regarding timing and manner of implementation of the proposed requirements, however, the agency is limited in its ability to reduce the cost of this rulemaking through adjusting the application of the proposed rule or the specific deadline for implementation."

NHTSA said it has tentatively concluded the area to the rear that extends 5 feet to either side of a vehicle's centerline and 20 feet behind the rearmost point on the rear bumper represents the highest risk area for children and other pedestrians to be struck. So it proposed that test objects of a particular size within that area must be visible to drivers when they are driving backward.

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