The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking public and industry input on whether or not camera-based rear visibility systems should be permitted to replace inside and outside rear- and side-view mirrors, according to an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.
Presently, federal auto safety standards require that all vehicles be equipped with rearview mirrors to provide drivers with a view of objects that are to their side or to their side and rear.
NHTSA's notice is in response to two petitions from manufacturers seeking permission to install camera monitoring systems, instead of outside rearview mirrors, on both light vehicles and heavy trucks.
In 2014, Tesla Inc. and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers petitioned NHTSA to allow cameras to be used in lieu of traditional mirrors, reports Bloomberg. The organizations cited improved fuel economy via reduced aerodynamic drag as the primary benefit.
The alliance also noted that cameras feeding one or more displays inside the vehicle could also improve rear and side visibility.
However, NHTSA believes camera monitoring systems could bring with them new safety risks such as screens that are too bright — blinding drivers to objects in the roadway, notes the Bloomberg report.
In 2017, NHTSA conducted tests of a prototype camera monitoring system and found it was generally functional in most situations. However, the agency also uncovered potential flaws such as distorted images and camera lenses that would become concealed by raindrops, notes the report.
NHTSA is presently seeking research from outside sources about the potential safety impacts of replacing traditional mirrors with camera monitoring systems.
The public comment period will be active for 60 days after the notice is officially published in the Federal Register.