Remember that kid in school that knew every answer, was first to finish a test and did their best to impress the teacher? Well that kid, while likely to do well in the future, was hated by most of their peers.

Honda is being that kid.

Earlier this week NHTSA announced it would make changes to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Electronic Stability Control, which is now a mandatory safety requirement, would be removed from the list of Recommended Advanced Technologies and replaced with Backup Cameras.

This means that when one of the 51 car buyers that will research their vehicles via Safecar.gov (see image below) will see a small backup camera icon (highlighted by red arrow) listed under Advanced Technologies of the vehicles they are comparing. This is designed to help buyers compare important safety features. This change will not impact the overall star rating of a vehicle, but NHTSA is considering adding crash avoidance systems into NCAP and looking at ways to incorporate various safety technology into the vehicle Monroney label (window sticker).

NHTSA responded to automakers that questioned this move by reminding them that “participation in NCAP is voluntary.” Ouch.

Advertisement

The main concern of automakers is that this change to NCAP, particularly the guidelines NHTSA is providing for “eligible” backup cameras, might not jive with the ongoing rulemaking (FMVSS No. 111) regarding backup cameras.

In other words, Automaker X could design a camera system that meets NCAP standards, yet fails to comply with FMVSS No 111.

NHTSA says that even if that were the case automakers would have time to adjust their design during the phase-in period.

Advertisement

In a letter to Congress, dated June 20, 2013, NHTSA said they planned to have the final rulemaking finished no later than January 2, 2015 and that backup camera information would be added to NCAP by June 2014.

Why incorporate the change to NCAP ahead of the final rulemaking after you state that you need more information and additional data to ensure the rulemaking is addresses “real world safety risk[s]?”

NHTSA says the decision to incorporate into NCAP was done to:

“…increase consumer interest in the important safety benefits of this system” – Wait. Didn’t the agency just say they weren’t certain of “real world” benefits in their justification to extend the rulemaking? How then can they pronounce safety benefits?

Advertisement

NHTSA also said NCAP would “give recognition to manufacturers who are already making their vehicles safer by installing such systems on their vehicles.”- They can already do this using by using this thing called advertising (see Honda ad).

You still with me?

Now that I’ve bored the crap out of you with all that regulatory background, let’s get back to Honda being that kid you want to trip in the hallway.

Advertisement

Note: I do not condone bullying. As a nerd in school I can say with 100% certainty it sucked.

In light of the all debates around backup cameras and the NCAP decision Honda runs the ad above touting that most (?) of its vehicles comes standard with backup cameras and that it didn’t need to wait on a law to make that happen.

Well Honda, good on you. Although, did you just piss off all of your auto-policy colleagues?

Advertisement

Nahhhh. In all likelihood the other government affairs folks in DC saw thsi ad and laughed (for your sake). Most of the auto lobbyists I’ve met are good people with a sense of humor and do share a fun competitive relationship with one another.

Conclusion

For all intents and purposes the backup camera is standard. This action is just the beginning of upcoming debates as to how technologies should factor into NCAP ratings and how or if they should be displayed on government mandated window stickers.

Advertisement

A personal observation: Now that I own a car with a backup camera and cross path detection (2014 Jeep SRT) I must admit at times I feel visually assaulted with all the various image sources. My maneuver speed is considerably slower as I feel compelled to check three mirrors, listen for sensors and watch a screen.

Question: What do you think? Has the visual limitations of current vehicle design made backup cameras a necessity rather than an amenity?

Appropriate Links:

NHTSA NCAP: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppe…

NHTSA NCAP Decision: http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nv…

Original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail…