Congress To Act Finally On Backup Camera, Even Though Technology Years Old, To Save More Toddlers

There’s nothing more tragic than reading your local online newsblog or page and seeing the heart-breaking story of a toddler who was run over when he entered the blind zone of a family minivan, sports utility or larger vehicle get more info.

Kids Are Quick

Let’s face it when a tot is between 1 and 3, they are quick. One minute they can be safely playing on the front lawn but when they see Daddy or Mommy getting ready to go somewhere without them they are like homing rockets. They just have to get into the vehicle so that they can go along for the ride. Or, the tyke may just be playing in back of the vehicle and someone gets in, checks all the mirrors, sees nothing but a tragedy still happens.

And, now Congress, spurred on by multiple child fatalities due to the lack of vision behind vehicles is studying whether to require rear cameras by 2014. This is probably the one move that Congress has gotten right in the last six months.

Usually, they spend months and months spouting lots of hot air (it’s a wonder why they need heating systems in DC, isn’t it?) about esoteric things like tax cuts for who and program cuts for someone else – never any of their pet projects, though. So, for Congress to come together to address a problem like this is nothing short of a miracle.

But Cost Has Been High

That pretty much spells out the situation that has brought Congressional action. Until the number of fatalities reached the tipping point, there seemed to be little incentive for Congress to act, did there? They were still busy ranting and raving and doing their best imitations of the “Know-Nothing Party” of the 1840s (look it up, there was such a party) until someone tapped them on the shoulders and told them to look at this problem.

It’s a problem whose cost has been way too high and the solution has been there for at least the last five years. At that time, when working at a used-car dealership, we ran across a number of high-end SUVs and minivans with backup cameras installed. Yes, that was 2006. It made backing up a breeze and it took a load off the driver’s mind.

(These cameras don’t handle low-light well so there will likely have to be built in lighting that automatically goes on if the light level falls below a certain threshold. It’s much like the automatic headlight setting on even the most modern cars today that use a light sensor to determine if the headlights should go on. Why not use the sensor to set off a pair of high-intensity lamps for low-light and nighttime backing? It makes sense.)

An Existing High-Line Option

If you know anything about the nomenclature of the car business, the places where these cameras have been installed have been in high-line vehicles – vehicles that are expensive and which automakers can use to hide the added expense of an LCD or CCR (charge-couped — based on capacitive technology) lens, camera electronics and fiber to a panel in the front end. It’s a good add-on because the parts probably total about $300 or so (maybe more or less depending on sourcing), but manufacturers can ramp the price up four or five times so that it’s a lucrative little money-maker.

And, while most people would take exception to such an expensive option, those people who do buy the expensive cars where backup cameras are installed don’t think about it. It’s like the old gag “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it!” There’s a big but here – the parts aren’t really all that expensive, not even the front-end screen that doubles as a navigation map system readout or climate control readout or both – but the manufacturers would have you think they are the realm of the upscale buyer.