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FMCSA says trucks can use cameras instead of rear-view mirrors

Stoneridge and Orlaco’s MirrorEye system. ( Photo: Orlaco )

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has reached a decision on Stoneridge, Inc.’s (NYSE: SRI) application for an exemption to rules governing “Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation.” The regulatory body granted Stoneridge a five year exemption to install its camera monitoring system on trucks in lieu of two rear-view mirrors, finding that “use of the MirrorEye system in lieu of mirrors would likely achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the regulation.”

The FMCSA decision effectively legalizes MirrorEye as an after-market product and opens the door for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to gather data and conduct its own study once MirrorEye hits the road. NHTSA governs what can be installed on the factory floor by commercial vehicle OEMS; if and when that agency approves MirrorEye, the camera system can be built into trucks from the very beginning.

Stoneridge describes itself as “an independent designer and manufacturer of highly engineered electrical and electronic components, modules and systems principally for the automotive, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, agricultural and off-highway vehicle markets.” The company’s products include various actuators and sensors used in the automotive industry, the leading telematics platform for commercial vehicles in Brazil, and vision systems including the MirrorEye Camera Monitor System.

MirrorEye replaces a truck’s mirrors with integrated external digital cameras and digital monitors inside the cab. Stoneridge says that its system’s expanded field of view, ability to display full-color night vision, and automated camera panning to continuously track the end of the trailer makes its system safer than conventional rear view mirrors.

MirrorEye isn’t just supposed to be safer, though: the improved aerodynamics achieved in European trucks by removing external mirrors created a fuel cost savings of 2-3%, according to Stoneridge. 

The era of “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” may be coming to a close. 

The FMCSA verified that MirrorEye’s “wide angle, narrow angle and look-down cameras expand[ed] the [field of view] by an estimated 25 percent,” and noted the system’s 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.”

FreightWaves spoke to Glynn Spangenberg, partner at Spangenberg Partners, which is Stoneridge’s commercial marketing and sales representatives to the trucking industry, by phone.

Spangenberg said that MirrorEye originated as a proposal to the ATA’s Future Truck Committee in 2013, and that the product debuted at the ATA’s conference in Las Vegas in 2016. Stoneridge’s application to the FMCSA for its exemption was completed in December of 2017, and was just now finally approved.

“The FMCSA has been tremendously diligent to ensure that untested technology does not reach the public market prematurely,” Spangenberg said. He went to recount how delivering a truck equipped with MirrorEye technology to Washington D.C. and letting regulators climb inside and see its performance firsthand was a turning point for the product. 

Spangenberg said that some of the government’s top policymakers, including Larry Minor, Associate Administrator for Policy at the FMCSA, Ryan Posten, Associate Administrator of Rulemaking at the FMCSA, and Jack Van Steenburg, the Chief Safety Officer and Assistant Administrator at the FMCSA, were all “blown away” by the demonstration. 

“This is a foundational platform for the future,” Spangenberg said, noting opportunities in data storage and collection and the realtime insights into road conditions that could be gleaned from fully exploiting the technology.

John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.