I'm all for anything that improves the safety of our kids, but I have to say mandating auto makers to include a back-up camera on every vehicle--that seems like a stretch. I have a back-up camera on my vehicle and I rarely use it. Maybe it's a female thing (I've asked friends so I'm not being sexist) or maybe it's just a me thing, but I don't trust the camera and spatially, it doesn't help me back up any better. I still turn around and do the traditional peering over the shoulder when backing out of a spot or a driveway.
My husband and son make fun of me, but let me ask you this. Is it better to plow out of a driveway without looking because I have my back-up camera in range or is it better to take the time to look carefully while backing out. I do this every day so I don't hit the gaggle of dogs typically hanging out in my driveway.
Beth: You're not alone in your distrust of the camera. There's still some debate over the viewing angle of the camera, partly because some people say it doesn't provide a wide enough view. Proponents want a 180-degree viewing angle but some engineers say that resultion is lost at the broader angle and are pushing for 130 degrees. I don't have back-up cameras on either of my cars, but have used many rental cars with the feature. With the rentals -- maybe because the experience is so different than what I'm accustomed to -- I, too, find myself peering back over my shoulder. Sometimes, I will glance back and forth at the display, but I have to admit I don't fully trust it yet.
The scariest thing, I think, is people being lulled into a false sense of security of trusting the camera and not taken the manual steps (looking back) to ensure top safety, especially when you're in a crowded area or in a place where there might be children or pets at bay. Also, the resolution isn't the best on these cameras--things can seem murky or farther away or closer than they actually are. Finally, all you need is to have is some snow or road dirt stuck to the lens and you have less visibility than the manual peering over the shoulder. I don't like being a naysayer to technical advances and I am all for cameras as options, but I don't see this in the same vein as an airbag or some of the other safety features that have been government mandated as standard safety features in cars.
You're right, Beth, there's no replacement for diligence on the part of the driver. That said, this technology does perform one function that goes beyond ordinary diligence. Toddlers, who may be as small as 30", simply cannot be seen behind most cars. There's a phenomenon that's almost painful to discuss -- the so-called "bye-bye syndrome," in which the toddler runs out behind a car to wave goodbye to a parent and is backed over. If the toddler is directly behind the car, he or she can't be seen by anything other than a back-up camera. Toddlers are shorter than the normal trunklid or rear liftgate, but the back-up camera does "see" them. It's one thing that the camera can do that none of us can, no matter how hard we try.
Good point, Chuck, on the camera's ability to see what the human eye can't see. Some delivery truck companies and service companies have a rule to place those little cones around their parked vehicles to eliminate the exact problem the cameras address. So I think this is a great development.
There's not a question about whether this technology is both impressive and valuable. The political football and question is the implementation of the rule that could require all new vehicles to incorporate backup cameras. Would be interesting to see how many people would choose to pay to buy the option and what it might add to the retail cost of the vehicle. Good story.
I have to agree with Beth on this one. I still see people depending on their mirrors rather than checking their blind spot for themselves when changing lanes– a critical error where an accident is often avoided because the driver in the next lane is vigilant and can get out of the way in time without hitting another car. I think the cameras are a great idea if used as another tool towards safety but again – it depends on the operator to actually use it. I am a mom so of course the premise of added safety for our children is near and dear to my heart, but as Beth points out, the temptation for such gadgets may be over reliance on them. While I am against over regulation – I would like to see practical laws that strike at the heart of irresponsible driving – for example, it should be a punishable offense to text while driving. How many kids have been run over due to driver distraction?
Nancy, your point about driver distraction is an excellent one. I also hear your point about over-regulation. One thing I wondered as I was writing this story was whether NHTSA could say, "Automakers don't need to put backup cameras in every vehicle, but vehicles that don't have them will be limited in terms of the number of distractions -- i.e., MP3 players, iPod connections, CD players, video, Internet, etc -- that they will be allowed to have." Back-up cameras might or might not help eliminate accidents, but at least the goal is safety. Infotainment, on the other hand, does not promote safety in any way that I'm aware of.
Several years ago I was looking at cars in Dallas and stoped by a VW dealership LATE AT NIGHT to test drive a Tourig (?). Leaving the lot with a female sales person we returned a half hour latter to find the main luminaries turned off. Being the last car to return and she being timid about returning the vehicle to its rather tight slot I left her out and proceeded to the space, pulled forward turing to allign with the space. As I put the vehicle in reverse the VERY BRITE BACKUP LIGHTS CAME ON ...AS DID THE GPS SCREEN.... COMPLETE WITH A BEAUTIFUL COLOR PICTURE OF THE SPACE TO MY REAR!
I...WAS SO IMPRESSED I GOT ONE IN MY NEXT CAR!If you have kids or GRAND KIDS this is the BEST NEW SAFETY DEVICE YET!
I see what you are saying, Charles. The only problem is compliance – it's that human free will thing. Limiting ports and not including technology bells and whistles won't prevent aftermarket installs. I think something will have to eventually be done regarding infotainment in vehicles. It's a shame because any reasonably thinking person should be able to acknowledge the dangers these distractions create for themselves and everyone around them. Regarding the cameras – I am thinking proximity sensors with a startling loud audio warning might do more. Although the cameras are a great idea and can help with scenarios like backing into a space as someone else pointed out, that is a time when the driver is focused and using it for a specific task. An audio warning could jar a distracted person back to the task at hand.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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