The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) wants truck drivers to help the agency assess the safety of replacing outside rear mirrors with in-cab cameras.
DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will publish on Monday a notice seeking comments on the proposal, which will then be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget to be approved.
The goal of NHTSA’s proposal, which is looking for drivers to conduct tests in passenger vehicles as well, is “to characterize drivers’ eye-glance behavior, visual object detection performance and driving performance while operating a vehicle equipped with traditional outside mirrors versus a vehicle equipped with a camera-based visibility system in place of vehicle mirrors.”
Participants in the study – who must be between 25 and 65 years of age, in good health, and have a valid commercial driver’s license – will drive a test vehicle equipped with a camera-based system in place of outside rearview mirrors, an original equipment outside rearview mirror system or a combination of both, according to NHTSA.
“Research will involve track-based and on-road, semi-naturalistic driving in which participants will drive vehicles in multilane traffic scenarios while using the outside rearview mirrors or alternative system during lane changes and other typical driving situations.” Part of the testing will take place during nighttime or early morning.
The agency explained that eye-glance behavior will reveal how drivers’ visual behavior in a vehicle equipped with a camera differs from behavior in a vehicle with traditional outside mirrors. Lane change performance will also be evaluated in a vehicle equipped with a camera versus one equipped with outside mirrors.
The notice also addresses safety concerns submitted during a similar data collection request issued by NHTSA in August 2019. Those concerns included:
Camera-based rear visibility systems’ displays will make driving unsafe, as compared to traditional mirrors.
Drivers will not be able to easily acclimate to using the visual displays of camera-based rear visibility systems and different display locations (if applicable).
Camera-based rear visibility systems and new technology will further remove the human from the driving task.
Concerns about camera-based rear visibility systems’ ability to function reliably and that cameras requiring power can fail unexpectedly and cause a lack of awareness of the drivers’ surroundings, while traditional mirrors cannot.
Concerns camera-based rear visibility systems would be more difficult for law enforcement to determine if they are working correctly, as compared to traditional mirrors for which damage can be easily determined.
Going mirrorless, however, has significant support among large carriers, truck manufacturers and the technology suppliers. In a separate notice of proposed rulemaking issued by NHTSA in October 2019 that generated close to 600 comments, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) emphasized savings in repair costs. “At the current average, shop repair costs are $100-$150 per hour,” ATA commented. “Using these figures, a [commercial motor vehicle] owner may spend $100-$200 twice per year repairing mirror issues (not including the price of parts).”
The October 2019 proposal was issued in response to a 2014 petition filed jointly by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Tesla to allow camera monitor systems to replace outside rearview mirrors on cars and a similar petition filed in 2015 by Daimler Trucks North America for heavy trucks.