Do You Need A Rearview Backup Camera?

by Don Elliott on April 3, 2012

Backup CameraTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked Congress for a mandate that all cars and trucks have rearview cameras by the 2014 model year. Backup cameras would add an estimated $200 per vehicle, or $2.7 billion to the automotive industry.

An estimated 228 people are killed each year by being driven over by cars going in reverse. LaHood believes that half of these people would have been saved if all cars had rearview backup cameras.  Although the mandate appears severe, backup cameras are standard equipment on 45% of the cars and trucks offered in the 2012 model year. Safety is the primary reason to have a rearview backup camera. Drivers also like to use the camera to assist with parallel parking, driving in reverse in tight spots, and to line up a trailer hitch.

Adding a rearview camera as an aftermarket product is remarkably simple and not very expensive. Admittedly, there is a wide variance in both cost and quality between the least expensive systems available for about $75 and the higher quality arrangements that could run as much as $500.

Choices abound. Wired systems are more expensive to install but less expensive to purchase. The wireless devices are not completely wireless. Typically the camera has to be hardwired into the car’s backup lights, a project that can be tackled in the driveway, but better handled by a professional. The monitor needs a power source in the driver’s area. Simpler systems can be plugged into the power outlet.

Cameras come in two types, complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and charge coupled devices (CCD). Auto service shops, big box retailers, and automotive accessory sellers unanimously recommend the slightly more expensive CCD cameras for image clarity and resolution. A wide angle lens with a field of view that spans 120 degrees horizontally and 100 degrees vertically offers the best field of view without significant distortion. Cameras are available with a reverse mirror image function, also available on the monitor.

Cameras can be installed as a surface mount, keyhole mount, or license plate mount. Cameras should be waterproof, shockproof, and specifically made for vehicles.

Monitors come with several choices. Factory installed rearview camera monitors are built in and integrated to the cars other systems. Aftermarket monitors can be built in, multifunctional or easily removed. Newer GPS devices have a port for adding a camera. When the car is put into reverse, the GPS switches from navigation to rear view mode. There are also single purpose monitors matched to the backup camera are sold as a package. The monitor can be mounted and hard-wired or simply plugged in to a power outlet when needed.

The newest technology integrates a monitor into the vehicle’s interior rearview mirror. Mirror monitors can either replace or fit over existing mirrors, offering a more permanent appearing solution in the driver’s compartment.

My personal favorite, Chinavision, would add used car value or at least make my car more special to me. Chinavision offers a “complete car Bluetooth rearview mirror kit” that fits over the existing rearview mirror. The kit includes a 4.3 inch touch screen, hands-free phone calling, built-in GPS navigation, multimedia on-the-go, DVR capabilities, and a wireless parking camera. Watch a video, play games, talk to the kids, and keep from driving over the family dog all on the same device. Every car could have one if backup cameras are mandated!

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