Drive To Discover
High tech used to build better rearview mirror
For the third time in a year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has postponed a rule requiring backup cameras in all cars. Some advocacy groups are disappointed, but the government says the technology isn't ready.
Every week, two children are killed and dozens injured by drivers who back up without seeing them, according to the nonprofit Kids and Cars. Public advocates and the government agree that a rearview video camera can help. Yet it is not required. It could add about $200 to the cost of a car, but some believe it's a reasonable price for safety. Already, almost half of all manufacturers will make rearview cameras standard equipment this year. A quarter already offer them as an option.
Car website Edmunds even does reviews of them. For example, a 2012 BMW system adds $3,000, but it is like something out of a jet fighter.
So where do regulators see room for improvement? Of course, the ideal rearview video should be in the rearview mirror. But most displays are in the dashboard instead, because it's so difficult to get bright video displays in a mirror.
A residual reflection can clearly be seen from an LCD window because only 20 percent of video screen light passes through a mirror. However, new technology, with the push of a button, can switch on and off the part of the mirror covering the screen -- generating four times the brightness with 1/4 the energy, according to Dr. Le Li's Kent Optronics.
Kent Optronics is one of a dozen companies looking forward to the new regulations. Which the Highway Safety Administration now says it will issue in December -- after still more testing. And until then, it won't comment, or critique competing technologies.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Official Proposed Regulations
Kids and Cars
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