All new cars and light-duty trucks will offer rear cameras as standard equipment.
The ruling, reached after four years of proposals, requires all new cars and light-duty trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating under 10,000 pounds to fit backup cameras. In addition, the NHTSA will specify exactly how the cameras and displays should operate, marking the first time automakers will have to comply with guidelines since making rearview cameras optional on the majority of all models for the last several years.
The idea is to prevent “backover” accidents in which drivers roll over people — particularly, children and elderly adults — hidden from the driver’s view. Based on available federal crash data, about 210 people die each year from such accidents involving light-duty vehicles. Nearly a third of those are under 5 years old and a quarter are adults 70 years and older.
On average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year caused by backover crashes. NHTSA has found that children under 5 years old account for 31 percent of backover fatalities each year, and adults 70 years of age and older account for 26 percent. About 58 to 69 lives could be saved each year when the rule is in full effect, according to the NHTSA.
As for cost, the agency is correct that more and more vehicles already offer as standard or are available with LCD displays capable of showing live video of the vehicle’s rear path. It estimates the rule would cost automakers up to $45 per car with a video display and up to $142 per car for models without any displays. Small volume automakers, such as Ferrari, would be exempt.
Automakers must begin installing backup cameras as standard in 10 percent of their U.S. lineup starting in May 2016, 40 percent by May 2017, and in all new cars and trucks by May 2018. The new guidelines, such as requiring the video image to be displayed within two seconds of selecting reverse, won’t go into effect until after May 2018 so that automakers won’t have to redesign all of their current systems immediately and therefore raise costs even further. Other rules will include how long the rear camera image can be displayed after driving off, response time and other variables.
The Department of Transportation, which oversees the NHTSA, was sued in September for delaying the backup camera ruling. A band of consumer advocacy groups and citizens, including Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union, have sued the Obama administration with the aim of forcing the DOT to establish a mandate for backup cameras in cars, trucks and SUVs in accordance with a 2008 congressional law.
The law had set a deadline of February 2011 for the DOT to set a backup-camera mandate, but while the rules would have gone into place starting this year, there was no official mandate until now, due to concerns over costs raised by the auto industry, the White House and members of Congress.