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DOT investigating safety of camera-based rearview mirrors

Drivers with valid CDLs will be paid to provide performance data by testing specially equipped trucks

DOT assessing safety of going mirrorless. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

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.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Elvin Jay Reid

    Maybe having both 🤔 🤷🏾‍♂️. Just plain stupid to have only an unreliable, EXPENSIVE, camera. Mirrors tend to stay where they are if they’re not hit. IJS

  2. Witt

    The repair cost numbers are complete BS, how come Freight Waves as complete bogus number all the time? Having drove over 2.5 , these is no way camera can replace mirrors. I would elaborate but 99.9% of you have never drove truck or operated machinery, so it is waste of time. Having said that ,I think cameras could play a addition safety role in trucks. I would even go so far as to having warning system for morons, who pass on the right and follow , and pace to close in the blind spot, but that could be cured with proper legislation and proper driver education, but nobody cares as long as the truck driver is held accountable for everything. Which leads to the real question ,why bother? we are all supposed to be replaced with robots anyway!

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.