ZEELAND, Mich. --- Gentex Corp., a supplier of auto-dimming rear-view mirrors to the automotive industry, has supplied Vauxhall/Opel with its first rear camera display (RCD) mirror system to help evaluate the potential of this new technology as a safety feature for the European light commercial vehicle market.
The system has been fitted by Vauxhall Special Vehicle Operations to a Movano panel van displayed by Vauxhall this week at the Commercial Vehicle Show at the National Exhibition Centre in the U.K. The demonstration will help Gentex, Vauxhall and Opel gauge consumer response to the system.
All vehicles have rear blind spots that can pose safety issues, particularly when the driver is backing out and may not see nearby pedestrians. And simply reversing into a street post at 5 mph can result in expensive damage to the bodywork of a vehicle.
Existing sensor-based systems can't always detect small objects such as posts or pedestrians -- especially children. Consequently, there is growing interest from vehicle manufacturers, legislators, consumer groups and the insurance industry in improved technical solutions.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies have shown that camera-based systems may have the best potential to provide drivers with reliable assistance in identifying people in the path of a reversing vehicle. Moreover, U.S. consumer research by The Planning Edge group already indicates that a majority of drivers would like to have rear camera displays in their next vehicle.
The Gentex RCD is incorporated in the interior automatic-dimming rear-view mirror. The 2.4-inch or 3.5-inch (diagonal) display only becomes visible when the driver selects reverse and remains on for approximately three seconds after leaving reverse to aid in manuevering. At all other times, the display is completely hidden with full mirror reflectivity.
In developing the technology, Gentex believes the best location for a rear camera display is the interior rear-view mirror.
"It's in the driver's natural line of sight," said Robert Steel, European sales and marketing director for Gentex. "This avoids the need for an expensive navigation system, which almost invariably positions the screen in the center console away from the driver's natural line of sight."
The Gentex RCD Mirror has already been adopted by manufacturers for a number of North American vehicles and two vehicles for the domestic Korean market. The company expects to ship approximately 300,000 RCD mirrors in the 2008 calendar year.
"We're interested to see how Europe reacts to the system," said Steel.
In the United States, legislation was signed into law in February requiring the NHTSA to initiate rulemaking to revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 111. This will require automakers to expand the required field of view, enabling the driver to detect areas behind the motor vehicle. The aim is to reduce death and injury resulting from reversing accidents, particularly incidents involving small children and disabled persons. The standard may be met by including additional mirrors, sensors, cameras or other technology to expand the driver's field of view.