Editorial Feature

Back-Up Cameras – Why They Have Become U.S. Law

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The rear-view mirror that is mounted on the ceiling above the center of the front windshield of a vehicle has provided drivers with a useful way to monitor their external environments. Despite its usefulness, the technology of rear-view mirrors has not evolved much over the last several decades, aside from the addition of anti-glare features that is activated by adjusting the angle of the mirror.

The 1956 Buick Centurion Dream Car was a two-door vehicle that was equipped with an astonishing technological element for its time: a rearview camera. In the back of this vehicle, a television camera was mounted and any images it recorded were sent to a screen that was placed in the dashboard, thus replacing the rear-view mirror1. After 52 years that the Dream Car made its original debut, rearview cameras are a customary accessory included in most vehicles today, and is even required by law in the United States.

The Push for Rear-View Systems

On March 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared that by May 1, 2018, all cars, SUVs, trucks and vans would be required to have rear-view visibility systems. This announcement follows the pleas of thousands of individuals who have been affected by tragic back-over accidents, especially those involving children and seniors. In fact, a 2010 report by the NHTSA stated that 210 people die every year in the United States from back-up incidents, and an additional 15,000 people are injured. Approximately 31% of these casualties involve children under the age of 5, whereas 26% kill adults over the age of 702.

Under the new legislation, all vehicles are required to provide drivers with a 10 foot by 20-foot view of the area that is directly behind the vehicle. By ensuring that all vehicles are equipped with rear-view systems, the NHTSA estimates that 58-69 lives will be saved each year, in addition to a number of injuries that will also be prevented. Although in 2014, approximately 73% of light vehicles are already equipped with rear-view cameras, it is only estimated to cost between $132-$142 USD to incorporate a complete system into new cars.

Advancements in Rear-View Camera Technology

In 2015, Cadillac, a division of General Motors (GM), introduced the incorporation of high-resolution streaming video into the rear-view mirror to provide users with a field of vision that is estimated to be 300% greater than that which is shown by a conventional rear-view mirror. Additionally, this advancement is expected to eliminate any vision obstructions that are often caused by rear seats, pillars or passengers that typically cause blind spots for the drivers when in reverse. The display of the Cadillac streaming video rear-view mirror is a 1280 by 240-pixel TFT-LCD display with 171 pixels3 per inch that is combined with a high definition camera that is specifically engineered to visualize an increased width of rear lanes and maximize visualization at night or adverse weather conditions.

Another advancement in the field of rear-view cameras has significantly reduced the number of backup crashes by combining this technology with rear automatic braking systems. Although this option is only found in approximately 5% of new vehicles, this combined technology has already been shown to dramatically reduce backup incidents by 78%4. Two specific models of cars that have utilized this new joint technology system are the 2017 Subaru Outback and the 2017 Cadillac XT5 SUV. In fact, the same way in which rear-view cameras are now a basic requirement of all new vehicles, it is expected that by the year 2022 that all new vehicles will also be required to have automatic front braking systems.

Sources and Further Reading

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.


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