NHTSA Seeks Public Input Regarding Cameras Replacing Side Mirrors

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nhtsa seeks public input regarding cameras replacing side mirrors

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]

Join the conversation
2 of 62 comments
  • 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.

  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.