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Why safety demands more digital screens in new cars

LCDs will increase by almost 90 percent in the next 3 years as the result of a government ruling requiring backup cameras.

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 21, 2013 9:22AM

Honda OdysseyYou may have noticed that there are more screens installed in cars than ever before. As sophisticated in-dash systems such as Cadillac Cue become more common, screens will proliferate even more.

But safety, not infotainment, is behind the latest screen push. The government will soon require backup cameras on all new cars, and obviously, we'll need plenty of screens for them.

After missing a Dec. 31 deadline, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has, for the third time, delayed a rule requiring backup cameras. The ruling is the result of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, named after a child killed when a car backed over him.

According to, a nonprofit advocacy group, at least 50 children in the U.S. are run over by reversing vehicles every week, with at least two fatally injured. The predominant age of victims is just 1 year old, and more than 60 percent of the accidents involved a large vehicle such as a truck, van or SUV. Even more tragic, a parent or close relative is behind the wheel more than 70 percent of the time.

The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act is designed “to direct the secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles, and for other purposes.” While the ruling doesn’t specifically call for mandating rearview cameras, it does require an industry standard to detect people behind the vehicle, especially "small children and disabled people," according to

Bloomberg reported that the ruling, which was signed by President George W. Bush almost five years ago and was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, is currently under discussion at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. It’s one of the most expensive pending rules, with a stated cost to the auto industry of $2.7 billion. The rule remains “very much” on the table, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said last week, according to Bloomberg.

As a result of the expected federal mandate and the boost in demand for rearview cameras in cars, a recent report by the market forecasting firm IHS predicts that shipments of LCD screens for use in cars will almost double by 2016, up 89 percent from 2012 levels. “The major driver of growth will be a U.S. government mandate requiring all cars to incorporate rearview cameras by 2014,” Vinita Jakhanwal of IHS said in the report.

We won’t just see more screens in the dash, but also in rearview mirrors. Several vehicles from Ford, Mazda and Toyota include a small LCD screen in the rearview mirror. As with an in-dash screen that’s connected to a backup camera, the screen in the rearview mirror switches on when the transmission is shifted into reverse.

Some have argued that rearview cameras are overkill and aren’t necessary if drivers instead learn to properly check their rearview and side mirrors before backing up. But even smaller vehicles, like the Hyundai Veloster, can have huge blind spots, and this is an example of where technology can help save lives and injuries.

Doug Newcomb has been covering car technology for more than 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and car technology, especially driving and listening to music.

Jan 22, 2013 11:01AM

"at least 50 children in the U.S. are run over by reversing vehicles every week, with at least two fatally injured. The predominant age of victims is just 1 year old,"


1 year old?




You know folks, if you're going to have children, they can't raise themselves!  They actually require some parental time.

Jan 22, 2013 9:29AM
some or most of this crap is just that crap, I have been driving full size trucks my hole life never on accident in over 35 years not one! My 3500 Chevy just has the proper side view mirrors, I have a car with the screen its annoying as all hell you dont need this , its like cell phones 15 years ago they were for emergency only , now you see people pulling out of there driveway talking on the ph, you were just in the house how the heck do you need to talk to someone already? My point is PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD NOT THE SCREEN OR YOUR CELL PH...I am
Jan 22, 2013 9:54AM
The best way to make cars safer is to make drivers safer.  Many of the "bells and whistles" on new cars make the cars more dangerous, not safer.  Combine all the distractions in the car itself with cell phone use or texting and you essentially create a death trap.
Jan 22, 2013 11:47AM
Why not teach people to drive correctly? Or how about parents teaching their kids to stay clear of a vehicle with its back-up lights on?  Oh No! Instead lets make a law that increases the price of a car and provides for the lowest common element among bad drivers.
Jan 22, 2013 11:01AM
One of the main reasons these are necessary is that so many people are obese and can't turn around in the car seat to look.
Jan 22, 2013 12:24PM
this is one area where the govt really NEEDS to get out of regulating.....and if theyre hell bent on regulating, then put a lid on product liabilty claims and amounts. Cars need to be affordable, and not by taking out a freakin mortgage to do so....i'd be happy to drive a new car, but ill be damned if im paying more for it than the house i live in.....
Jan 22, 2013 11:41AM
Just wait until your warranty expires and you have to pay to fix all this high tech stuff!
Jan 22, 2013 9:16AM
soon there will be blind spot cameras in cars that pop out when you flip the turn signal each way
Jan 22, 2013 11:46AM

I am of the opinion that the more bells and whistles we add on a car, the more problems we will introduce - both to the car and the driver in the end. To the car, in the fact that there will be more things to break, and to add to its maintenance cost. To the driver by adding to his list of "must-dos." Already many drivers are driving distracted - with their hand-held phones and such.Incoming calls are just as much of a bother as outgoings.

It is time we stress the need for all to be 110% concentrated on the business of driving once behind the wheel. Why? The driver is the key to safe operation of his vehicle. He or she should be careful to stay alert while on the road, and not be depending on whatever gizmo that comes with the car to keep his or her car under control.Too many are already overtaxing the limits of both car and driver without their knowing it.They forget how unforgiving the laws of physics can be - while they hurtle down the road - way over the speed limit.

Have you not noticed the dramatic increase in the number of chain reaction crashes of late? Or, taking it more closer to home, how many still drive without their lights (head and tailights) on when visibility is poor? Be forewarned that we have so many careless and worst - reckless people sharing our roadways even in the modern and enlightened age.

Jan 22, 2013 12:23PM

There we go again, government trying to make everything 100% safe for all of us. We are suffocating under government rules and regulations and it's costing us plenty. Just got  an OSHA 10 card, my God, if we were to adhere to everything that in their book of nonsense is teaching, we wouldn't accomplish anything.

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