New FMCSA Decision Paves The Way To End Rear Vision Mirrors As We Know Them
Washington, D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced its decision to grant an exemption that paves the way for the elimination of two rear vision mirrors in commercial vehicles.
FMCSA announced it is granting Stoneridge, Inc.’s application for a 5-year exemption to rules governing “Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation.” Stoneridge applied for an exemption to allow its MirrorEyeTM camera monitoring system (CMS) to be installed as an alternative to the two rear-vision mirrors required on CMVs.
In its announcement FMCSA wrote:
FMCSA believes that granting the exemption to allow motor carriers to operate CMVs with the Stoneridge MirrorEyeTM CMS installed as an alternative to the two rear-vision mirrors required by the FMCSRs is likely to achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the regulation.
The MirrorEyeTM CMS consists of multiple digital cameras mounted on the exterior of the CMV and enclosed in an aerodynamic package that provides both environmental protection for the cameras and a mounting location for optimal visibility. Each camera has video processing software that presents a clear, high-definition image to the driver by means of a monitor mounted to each A-pillar of the CMV, i.e., the structural member between the windshield and door of the cab.
The company explains that attaching the monitors to the A-pillars avoids the creation of incremental blind spots while eliminating the blindspots associated with conventional mirrors.
Stoneridge states that its CMS meets or exceeds the visibility requirements provided in FMVSS No. 111 based on several factors:
1. Greater field of view (FOV) than conventional mirrors – Mirrors are replaced by wide angle, nanow angle and look-down cameras expanding the FOV by an estimated 25 percent.
2. Fail-safe design – The CMS has independent video processing of multiple camera images so that in the unlikely event of an individual camera failure, the other camera images continue to be displayed. This ensures that real-time images are continuously displayed without interruption.
3. Augmented and enhanced vision quality – The use of high-definition digital cameras provides for color night vision, low light sensitivity and trailer panning capabilities. This assists with night driving, operating under other low lighting conditions, and provides for glare reduction.
4. Trailer panning – The CMS automatically tracks the end of the trailer to keep it in view while the vehicle is moving forward. Stoneridge believes this feature could eliminate collisions associated with the CMV driver making a right-hand turn, and incidents where the CMV strikes a pedestrian or bicyclist while making right hand turns.
MirrorEye says their system doesn’t just make trucking safer, but it also will improve fuel economy. The company says by eliminating side mirrors and thereby reducing wind drag, drivers will be able to achieve a savings of 2-3% on fuel consumption.
Who Spoke Out In Favor Of Granting This Exemption?
Among those who spoke out in favor of granting the exemption were super-carriers Schneider and J.B. Hunt. Both companies submitted comments during the comment period documenting their experience with the MirrorEyeTM CMS. The carriers stated they have been using the system in a select number of vehicles and have experienced positive results. FMCSA explained it this way in its announcement:
Schneider states that its drivers using the MirrorEyeTM CMS have (1) “had an overwhelmingly positive experience,” and (2) confirmed some of the benefits touted by Stoneridge in its application, including improved visibility in night driving and low light conditions, improved visibility due to auto tracking of the trailer, and reduced driver distraction due to light and glare reduction.
J.B. Hunt states that “we have not been involved in any collisions and have received overwhelming positive feedback from our test drivers.” J. B. Hunt also states that its drivers noted benefits such as “real time, excellent monitor image clarity with improved field of vision around their tractor and trailing units and elimination of the tractor’s problematic front passenger side blind spot.”
What Are Critics Arguing?
Not everyone will be thrilled by this announcement and FMCSA addressed the critics concerns, writing:
Advocates opposes the Stoneridge application “on the basis that the application is overly broad. The regulations governing requests for exemption requires applications to include ‘an estimate of the number of drivers and commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) that would be operated under the terms and conditions of the exemption’, which in this case could encompass every CMV and driver presently on the U.S. roads.. .we must oppose such an overly broad exemption which would apply for at least five years.”
While Advocates opposes the application, it recognized the potential benefits of the technology, and instead urged NHTSA and FMCSA “to establish a pilot program study the benefits of using cameras to enhance commercial vehicle driver visibility as this technology has the potential to reduce or eliminate the large and dangerous blind zones aroundCMVs.” Advocatesstatesthattherear-visionmirrorregulationsare,by definition, minimum safety standards, and any exemption granted by FMCSA “could deny both the driver(s) and the public the minimum required safety protections intended under the FMCSRs and, in this case, the pertinent FMVSS as well.”
What Does This Decision Mean?
FMCSAs decision effectively legalizes the MirrorEyeTM CMS as an after-market product and now paves the way for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin gathering data on the new technology. This is key since the NHTSA regulates the products which can be installed on the factory floor in the production of new trucks by the commercial vehicle OEMs.
If and when the NHTSA approves the camera system for factory installations it could spell the end of rear vision mirrors as we have known them for generations.
Image courtesy of Stoneridge MirrorEyeTM
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