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A backup camera (also called reversing camera) is a special type of video camera that is produced specifically for the purpose of being attached to the rear of a vehicle to aid in backing up, and to alleviate the rear blind spot. Backup cameras are alternatively known as 'reversing cameras' or 'rear view cameras'. It is specifically designed to avoid a Backup collision. The area directly behind vehicles has been described as a "killing zone" due to the associated carnage.
Backup cameras are usually connected to the vehicle head unit display.
The design of a backup camera is distinct from other cameras in that the image is horizontally flipped so that the output is a mirror image. This is necessary because the camera and the driver face opposite directions, and without it, the camera's right would be on the driver's left and vice versa. A mirrored image makes the orientation of the display consistent with the physical mirrors installed on the vehicle. A backup camera typically sports a wide-angle or fisheye lens. While such a lens spoils the camera's ability to see faraway objects, it allows the camera to see an uninterrupted horizontal path from one rear corner to the other. The camera is typically pointed on a downward angle, to view potential obstacles on the ground as well as the position of approaching walls and docks, rather than straight back.
Backup cameras are common on vehicles that tow difficult-to-see trailers, such as motorhomes. Recently, with the rise in popularity of in-dash DVD players and GPS navigation systems which aid in justifying the expense of adding a color LCD display to the driver's seat, they have become much more common, often available as optional factory accessories on standard passenger trucks and sport utility vehicles, as well as aftermarket accessories. Inside the vehicle, the display is typically wired to automatically sense when the transmission is set in reverse, showing the backup view while in reverse, and showing the map (or other content) at all other times.
Backup cameras are produced in different varieties depending on the application.
- For large vehicles such as motorhomes, camera systems with built-in servomechanisms allow the driver to remotely pan and tilt the camera.
- Built-in audio intercoms (one-way or two-way) are used in addition to the camera system for communicating with a spotter outside the vehicle - common when backing large trailers or launching boats.
- Night vision cameras use a series of infrared lights for backing in the dark, when the positioning or the intensity of the vehicle's white reverse lights are insufficient for this purpose.
- Portable or semi-permanent all-in-one camera systems (also known as dashboard cameras) are sold typically for small vehicles that don't have displays permanently installed in the dash. Such systems consist of a small portable screen that hangs from the sun visor above, and a length of wire to reach the cameras.
- License-plate-frame versions permit permanent installation without any permanent vehicle modifications.
- Custom cameras are produced to fit specific makes and models of vehicles. For example, for the Hummer H2, a specialized camera exists that replaces a factory tail light and matches the original vehicle style. Other custom cameras replace a brake light with a combination device that contains a camera while still illuminating as a brake light.
- Backup or Reversing Cameras can be added as aftermarket additions to vehicles that do not come with factory-fitted systems. They are available in both wired and wireless versions.
- Backup or Rear-Camera Displays in the Rearview mirror can be used in vehicles to detect activity behind the car to "avoid the tooling, software, hardware, and testing costs associated with integrating the display/feature in other areas of the vehicle."
Other types of camera systems can give a more comprehensive view. In 2007 Nissan introduced their "Around View Monitor" which uses four cameras to give a birds eye view of the vehicle. Other automobile manufactures have since offered similar systems, BMW introduced their system in 2009 on the F10 5-series.
Blind spot monitors and other technology
Blind spot monitors are an option that may include more than monitoring the sides of the vehicle. It can include "Cross Traffic Alert," "which alerts drivers backing out of a parking space when traffic is approaching from the sides."
The first back up camera was used in the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, presented in January 1956 at the General Motors Motorama. The vehicle had a rear mounted television camera that sent images to a TV screen in the dashboard in place of the rear-view mirror. The first production automobile to incorporate a back up camera was the 1991 Toyota Soarer Limited (UZZ31 & UZZ32), which was only available for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) and not on its U.S. counterpart, the Lexus SC. The Toyota system used a colour EMV screen, with a rear spoiler mounted CCD camera. The system was discontinued in 1997. In April 2000, Nissan's Infiniti luxury division introduced the RearView Monitor on the 2002 Q45 flagship sedan at the 2000 New York International Auto Show. Introducing coloured onscreen guide lines as a parking distance parameter, the RearView Monitor operated from a license-plate mounted camera in the trunk, that transmitted a mirrored image to an in-dash (7 inch) LCD screen. It was available as optional equipment upon North American market launch in March 2001. The 2002 Nissan Primera introduced the RearView Monitor back up camera system to territories outside Japan and North America.
In the United States, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 required the federal Secretary of Transportation to issue backup collision safety regulations within 3 years and require full compliance within 4 years after final rulemaking. As of 2012, regulations are still under study. About half of model year 2012 automobiles already have backup cameras installed.
The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was passed to mandate increased rear visibility on automobiles sold in the United States, it has been delayed by the NHTSA on four separate occasions. NHTSA estimates the cost at $58 to $203 depending on whether the vehicle already comes standard with an interior display. Consumers Union filed a lawsuit in September 2013 to force action, saying the NHTSA has delayed the laws implementation excessively.
In March 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would require all new automobiles to have backup cameras by 2018. Manufacturers are petitioning that backup cameras replace mirrors to reduce drag and improve fuel economy of their vehicles.
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- Jerome, Marty (16 October 2007). "Nissan to Bring Around-View Monitor to Infiniti EX35". Wired.
- "Infiniti Around View Monitor". Worldcarfans.
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- Jensen, Christopher (August 18, 2009). "Are Blind Spots a Myth?". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
- Automobile Blind-Spot Monitoring System, Tri-City Insurance News, January 27, 2006
- "Buick Centurion". CNET. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
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- "Government Backs Up On Rearview Car Cameras". National Public Radio. 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- Woodyard, Chris (31 March 2014). "NHTSA to require backup cameras on all vehicles". USA Today. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- "Alliance Statement on Rearward Visibility". Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
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- "The danger of blind zones The area behind your vehicle can be a killing zone". Consumer Reports (Consumers Union). March 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2013.