Armchair Executive: What New Safety Feature Would You Push To Be Mandatory In The US?

This is the weekly series where you, the Autosavant commentariat, are invited to take the reins of the auto industry, for at least as long as it takes you to write a comment. It’s all the responsibility, with none of the compensation!

Almost a year ago plus a couple days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put forth a requirement through its parent organization, the US Department of Transportation, that all cars manufactured on or after May 1, 2018 be sold in the US with a backup camera as standard equipment.

I’m sure most of us have seen one by now: a large screen in the center console, dash or even rear view mirror will display live video from a camera mounted above the rear license plate, whenever reverse gear is selected. Often (though not always) there are sightlines projected on the display to give drivers a quick index of where objects are in relation to the rear of the vehicle; sometimes the lines even move to match steering angle and speed.

According to a New York Times article, regulators argued that each year, between 95 and 112 deaths, and 8,374 injuries, could be wiped off the board if rear blind spots were totally eliminated.

For the mandate, rules were set determining the rearward field of vision (10 feet wide, 20 feet deep), the angle of the lens (130 degree fisheye), and even the duration the image should stay on the screen (between 4 and 8 seconds).

While many in the industry were happy with the decision for obvious reasons, observers have noted that backup cameras seem like a safety item of fairly low importance, perhaps even compared to other active safety features, such as automated collision avoidance, telematics, or even a combination of the two–vehicles that would be required to communicate and avoid collisions as if they were magnetically opposed to one another, an idea the DOT’s chief secretary Anthony Foxx had opined only two months before their backup camera mandate.

There’s no question regulators don’t make these decisions from within a vacuum. Industry players (such as yourselves) have had plenty of time to catch NHTSA’s ear before these announcements were made.

So the question I pose to you is: if you were convinced your industry could handle the business–or the overhead–which emerging automotive technology absolutely NEEDS to be in every car sold in the US? Does fully driverless automation even enter the question, or is it too complex and risky? Are eye tracking devices simple and cheap enough to economize, or are they not effective enough to make roads safer?

Or, as folks in the aviation industry might ask, is all this augmented reality feature creep making us worse at managing our ever more complicated machinery?

Have your say below in the Comments.

Author: David Surace

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4 Comments

  1. Back up Cameras are becoming ever more popular here in the UK as well. Teaching people to drive is really becoming a different experience now, with all these different cameras and sensors helping us out, it’s much easier as a driving instructor, the car does half the work for me now!

  2. I don’t know if technology is making it easier for people to drive. I honestly feel overall people’s driving ability is at a all time low. it costs $20 for a license so not much care or thought goes into it. I mean honestly, people didn’t pay attention 10 years ago now we have smart phones, tv’s in the dash, back up cams, etc, etc. I think cars driving for us and making the decisions could be the way to go as long as the safety is there. Taking human decision completely out of driving could mean safer roads overall.

  3. Not high-tech at all; separate, amber rear turn signals.

    While we’re on lighting, I would increase the effectiveness of daytime running lights (which depend on novelty) by banning them as factory equipment, dealer-installed or aftermarket installation. If you don’t want ’em badly enough to wire them in yourself you shouldn’t have them.

  4. I still think that there should be some element of human decision making while driving, because with a lack of, there would be no need for a driving licence. We would essentially be paying for a taxi. It takes out the fun.

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