Back in 2008, the US Congress passed a law that was aimed at greatly improving the rearview visibility for all passenger cars. This started a trend in which the US government wanted to increase the levels of safety by mandating all sorts of technologies for upcoming cars.
Until 2014 this trend was somewhat forgotten, but it was revived once again when the U.S. Department of Transportation mandated that all newer cars starting from 2019 are required to offer rearview cameras as standard which gave the automakers a couple of years to prepare adequately.
This was mostly targeted for more affordable cars such as Japanese economy cars which were not available with a rearview camera at the time, but many more high-end models had already adopted those trends years in advance.
According to statistics, up until 2019 more than 200 people died every year due to a lack of rearview visibility. To make matters worse, a lot of them were children. As such, all newer cars these days come with rearview cameras as standard, and the safety trend is likely to continue as the industry progresses.
Screen sizes and technology
There are different types of cameras and corresponding screens. These laws only regulate the very basics of these systems, and the manufacturers are free to design their systems according to their inner policies and product investments as long as they are within the limits of these laws.
Some manufacturers offer landscape widescreens and others favor portrait screens. Most entry-level screens are anywhere between 6-10 inches in diameter while the largest ones can span almost twice as that. As technology keeps progressing, screens used in the early 2000s now seem ridiculously small and low res.
Modern-day screens use OLED technologies with advanced silicon architecture which enable you to control the system either by knobs, touch screen, or even voice commands. Some systems such as the ones offered in BMW even offer gesture controls that can operate a set amount of infotainment screen functions.
Automakers spend large amounts of money on coherent design choices which both need to follow the brand’s design philosophy and the regulatory aspects of car safety. As such, they differ when it comes to rearview camera placements depending on the car in question and how they want the car’s rear end to look.
Some brands cleverly integrate the camera under the badge which pops out the moment shift in reverse. This way the camera always stays clean and is also protected from impacts and adverse weather conditions. It’s worth mentioning that most brands that do this also offer the option to pop the camera out manually.
Others leave the camera exposed at all times, but they often accompany the camera with a set of washers that engage whenever you sprinkle the windshield. A lot of dirt and grime can block the view of the camera which could render it useless so the camera must be clear at all times.
Guidelines and viewing angles
The vast majority of modern cars come with all-round parking sensors and automakers have also integrated other useful software solutions into the camera to make the entire process smoother and more sophisticated. A set of movable guidelines usually appears on the screen and follows your steering inputs correspondingly.
This way you can easily determine if you are at a right angle when approaching a parking spot in reverse gear. Automakers integrate these differently, and some of them are more useful than others. In any case, guidelines are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clever software solutions which are designed to help you maneuver the car more safely.
High-end cars are often equipped with advanced hi-res multi-angle camera systems which enable you to focus on a certain angle while maneuvering the car. The most advanced system even offers a 3D effect that looks like a small drone is hovering above the car which makes it dead easy to park even the largest cars out there.
Are rearview cameras useful?
The answer to this question depends highly on how advanced a certain system is. If the camera in question is low res and dirty, then it makes no sense to use it that way. However, if the camera is of decent quality, it is indeed useful, especially on larger models.
However, you can never rely on these systems entirely because they are only there to aid you, and not to replace your awareness. That being said, always keep a sentient eye on your surroundings and be sure to turn around while you are reversing in order to do it as safely as possible.
Can I retrofit a rearview camera on my car?
Because rearview cameras are only mandated after 2019, there are many cars on the roads these days that do not offer these technologies. As such, it begs the question if it is possible to equip your car with a rearview camera, and how one should approach that idea.
There are several companies out there that specialize in these sorts of solutions and it’s paramount to choose the right one. Just sticking a camera on your trunk lid and calling it a day is not really the best idea. Be sure to investigate which companies in your area do it the best and always opt for high-res cameras.
Should I spend more money on a 360 degree camera?
360 cameras are often hailed as some of the most technologically advanced features offered in cars today. Some believe that systems such as these are only gimmicks and that it makes no sense to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on such systems if you are already able to opt for a rearview camera as standard.
However, these systems are perfect for larger vehicles that spend most of their time in busy city streets. Furthermore, these systems can also double as sophisticated dashcams which can turn on the moment someone bumps into your car. Moreover, they are also a great thing to have when it comes time to sell the car.