NHTSA Seeks Public Input Regarding Cameras Replacing Side Mirrors

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While side-mounted camera systems have been approved as an acceptable replacement for mirrors by much of the developed world, the United States has yet to approve their installation. But it’s under consideration via an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the federal register.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing the worthiness of these systems and how drivers interact with them vs traditional mirrors. Now it’s looking for hot takes as research continues.

On Thursday, the NHTSA announced it was also opening the door for public comments on the technology. If you care about this at all (yay or nay), it might be worth offering the agency a well-spoken piece of your mind.

The government will take comments for 60 days, before using that information to help it reach a final decision regarding the technology’s deployment (timeline unannounced). As things currently stand, all vehicles sold in the U.S. are required by law to have factory installed mirrors. They’re also required to have a backward-facing camera systems since the new safety regulations went into effect in 2018.

We’ve covered the pros and cons of these camera systems in the past, reaching no consensus on their true value. Blind-spot monitoring can theoretically be made more robust (like on the Lexus ES) through these platforms, with various zoom functions and lane highlighting being similarly incorporated. Removing side mirrors also has the added benefit of reducing drag and wind noise. But these items are going to be quite costly to implement and obnoxious to replace.

Mirrors are notoriously reliable and give a reasonably accurate picture of what’s directly behind you. They’re also cheap and have a lifespan that lasts until they’re broken — which will easily surpass any complex camera mounts and their display screens. However, their greatest strength (simplicity) limits their technological growth. There’s not much you can do to improve a mirror but you can fine tune a camera display by syncing it up with advanced driving aids until the cows come home, retire, and die of old age.

If that makes us sound lukewarm on the possibility of the U.S. embracing camera-based mirror systems, that’s because we are. Prohibiting the technology entirely seems unwise, but it would also be a shame to see mirrors following manual transmissions and parking brake levers into the hereafter.

On-board camera systems have proven easily crippled by road grime and some have difficulties mitigating glare from sunlight and the other driver’s headlamps. Display screens can also become washed out under harsh lighting conditions and would need to be permanently active to function as an effective replacement for side mirrors. Automaker’s will need to ensure those systems are durable and useable, contending with dimming (i.e. not blinding drivers at night), blooming, and placement issues (either distracting or disorienting).

This author would honestly like to see these systems improved before they’re rolled out for use the United States and is slightly weary of their replacing mirrors, which have never offered much trouble, unnecessarily. But the NHTSA is interested in your opinions.

Comments can be submitted from now until December 9th, via mail (U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Management Facility, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington DC 20590) or fax (202-493-2251). Alternatively, commenters can go to this regulations.gov link and file their opinion over the internet.

[Images: Lexus]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Oct 11, 2019

    Oh FFS, stop.Just please stop. Eradicating that last .00002% of "risk" for total what if "saaaaafety" goals is going to drive the price of vehicles beyond affordability such that an 84 month loan won't be long enough to pay for a frigging Mitsubishi Mirage.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 11, 2019

    I just don't see car loans getting extended anymore especially with all the electronic nannies which are expensive to replace and more and more people would be underwater on their cars which will depreciate faster than the balance of the loan. Better to offer more leases and build the depreciation into the lease. If anything I believe that the average life of a vehicle will decrease due to the complexity and the cost to replace electrical components. If anything vehicles will become more disposable. If only vehicles would become less expensive then I wouldn't mind them not lasting as long.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
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