NHTSA to Mandate Rearward-Viewing Cameras or Sensors as Standard Equipment on New Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may soon require all new passenger cars be equipped with a means for alerting the driver if a child is behind the vehicle when it is being backed-up. Under a law passed in early 2008, the NHTSA has three years (until February 28, 2011) to implement a regulation, and up to four more years to phase-in the rule. The specialty-equipment aftermarket has been at the forefront of offering cameras and sensors to address the issue. 

The 2008 law is intended to protect children from injuries or death in non-traffic vehicle incidents. In order to draft the regulation, the NHTSA is requesting public input (due Monday, May 4) on the effectiveness of various rear-visibility systems (mirrors, video, etc.) and a cost/benefit analysis on the countermeasures.

The NHTSA also wants guidance on developing technical specifications and tests for evaluating the performance of four countermeasures—direct view, rear-mounted convex mirrors, rear-object detection sensors (such as ultrasonic or radar-based devices) and rearview video (RV) systems.
While all passenger vehicles are involved in backover accidents, the NHTSA has found that some vehicles, such as pickups and SUVs, have a higher rate of incidents. Based on these findings, the NHTSA is considering three regulatory approaches for revising Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111 (Rearview Mirrors):

  1. Require a countermeasure be installed on all vehicles by establishing a blind zone size of “0 square feet;
  2. Limit the countermeasure mandate to light trucks as a vehicle class (since they are disproportionately responsible for most backover fatalities); or
  3. Establish a maximum rear blind-zone area that all vehicles, or light trucks as a class, would have to meet, thus tying the regulatory mandate to the crash rate.

SEMA is interested in gathering feedback from its members on this topic. Questions or comments should be directed to Stuart Gosswein