The Feds are finally looking at cameras to replace side and rearview mirrors.
For decades, the law of the land has always been for any car sold in America to have rearview mirrors. That means one mirror on either side of the driver to look in their blind spots as well as one rearview mirror mounted in the cabin. If a car didn’t have these essential items, it could not be legally sold.
That was sensible legislation for a while, but these days car manufacturers in more advanced countries like Japan and Germany are adopting camera systems instead of mirrors. Both the Lexus ES and Audi E-Tron feature side cameras in Europe and Japan, but when they’re sold Stateside, they have traditional mirrors.
But perhaps not for much longer. The NHTSA announced on Tuesday that they’re finally looking into replacing the old rule of mirrors with newfangled camera systems.
In their announcement, the NHTSA said they'd examine "driving behavior and lane change maneuver execution" in vehicles which have replaced side mirrors with cameras and screens. They're asking the public to comment on such systems while they perform testing.
According to Reuters, this has been something that the automotive industry has been asking for some time. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes GM, Volkswagen, and Toyota, petitioned the NHTSA in 2014 to review the rule of mirrors over cameras, while Daimler filed a similar petition in 2015 to examine cameras on heavy-duty trucks. Both petitions are still pending review.
Cameras are a common addition to modern vehicles. Although those sold in North America don't go so far as to replace mirrors with camera systems, they do use cameras for specific tasks such as backing up, parking, or examining upcoming obstacles for off-roading.
However, cameras have been shown to be both viable and even beneficial for use over traditional mirrors. Cameras can't fog up so there is no need to have heated mirrors, and they provide a greater view of a vehicle's blindspot than is possible with a side mirror.
That said, the NHTSA does not make decisions quickly, so it may be some time before side mirrors will be replaced by cameras on new vehicles.