The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposal on Dec.3, 2010, whereby it is recommending that all passenger cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to10,000 pounds have a rear view camera system installed. This rule, designed to protect small children and the elderly, is in response to Congress’ Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, named for a two-year-old boy who was killed in his family’s driveway when his father accidentally backed over him.
The rule, if approved, would be phased in over a two year period with applicable vehicles having such systems in place no later than Sept. 2014. That means that all 2015 model year passenger vehicles would rear view camera detection systems although manufacturers can include them earlier. The federal government estimates that these systems would cost between $1.9 billon and $2.7 billion, an expense likely to be carried by car buying consumers.
Ford’s Safety Initiative
Not everyone is waiting for the D.O.T. to take action. The Ford Motor Company plans to make available its rear view camera detection system on nearly all Ford and Lincoln products by the end of 2011. In Ford’s case, their detection system employs an outside camera embedded in the rear of the vehicle. That camera sends images to a video display located in the rearview mirror or the navigation system screen (see photo) to help improve discernability immediately behind the vehicle when the driver puts the vehicle in reverse.
Ford’s system is overlaid with lines marking the width of the vehicle and are shown either on a rear-view mirror display or navigation system screen. Images are illuminated even in dark parking areas as the camera has a low light capability which, when combined with the intensity of the vehicle’s reverse lamps, help to bring small objects such as children into view.
Offering comments about Ford’s safety efforts was Jim Buczkowski, director of electrical and electronics systems engineering at Ford said, “Ford is making new innovations such as the Rear View Camera System available to a wide range of customers in most of our vehicles to help them see better when reversing. Our research shows that visibility is one of the biggest customer concerns today, which is why we are the only company to offer a Rear View Camera System, Blind Spot Mirrors and the radar-based Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic system.”
Auto Industry Changes
Ford’s initiative underscores the cultural changes that have been embraced by car manufacturers who as recently as the 1980s fought many government safety mandates including air bags and third brake lights, citing the cost of these technologies which have to be passed on to consumers in the form of higher vehicle prices.
However, consumers are embracing all kinds of technologies and seem to be willing to pay for them including navigation units, tire monitoring systems, active restraint headrests and other important safety and cabin convenience amenities.