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Best backup cameras improve vehicle safety


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Best backup cameras improve vehicle safety

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

The U.S. Transportation Department is betting that backup cameras on light cars and trucks will save lives.

Through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the department has proposed that every light duty vehicle sold in the United States by 2014 have some sort device on it that detects pedestrians in the blind spots behind a vehicle.

By pedestrians, NHTSA actually means children under 5 years old and people over 70 years old. Those two groups make up 77 percent of the estimated 228 people killed in back up accidents every year.

"The changes we are proposing today will help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Making these incidents more tragic, the non-profit kidsandcars.org, which has followed this issue closely for the past decade, estimates that around 70 percent of all the accidents involving children are committed by a direct relative.

For people concerned about this issue today, there are already many different vehicles available with backup cameras and sensors that can help you avoid hitting anything behind you.

Here's a look at some of the best systems available:

No. 1: Infinit Around View Monitor on the Infiniti FX: This camera system is simply the best backup system available. It uses four super wide-angle cameras mounted on the front, rear and side of a vehicle and then runs all of the images through a computer to create a bird's eye view of the vehicle.

The first time you use it, you want to stop and look up to see if there is a satellite hovering overhead. Every object, completely surrounding the vehicle is shown. Additionally, it can be activated when driving slowly forward, such as pulling into a garage to make sure you hit nothing in front of you. Nissan Motor Corp., the owner of Infiniti, should start installing this on numerous vehicles in the future. Nissan already plans on using it on its all new Quest minivan, which debuted recently at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

No. 2: Toyota: Panorama Camera on the Toyota Sienna: This backup camera uses two different views that provide a normal view out the back for higher resolution and a wide angle view that will reach out past the corners of the minivan. While the wide view looks slightly distorted, similar to a fish eye lens, the view remains remarkably clear. It would be easy to use first the wide angle and then the normal view lenses while safely backing up.

No. 3: Audi: The Audi backup camera system is very easy to use. Put the car in reverse and, like most other vehicles with a center stack display screen, a view of what's behind you appears. Audi's image is particularly clear and the German carmaker adds two lines to the screen that show where the car will go if you hit the gas. The interesting aspect is the lines turn and move as you turn the steering wheel. It's a good way to get a better feel for where you're pushing the car to while backing up.

No. 4: Ford Rear view Mirror Camera: Ford Motor Co. is simply ahead of most carmakers when it comes to backup camera systems. It announced Friday it expected to provide nearly every car it makes with some system that assists with backing up. While Ford does provide traditional backup systems on many vehicles — they include a wide angle lens and a display on the center stack — it also uses a system in which the LCD screen is mounted on the rear view mirror. This was first installed on its pickups as a way to assist with backing up on the vehicles with the biggest blind spots.

This also works well because this is the natural place to look when backing up.

Ford also uses lines similar to Audi and other carmakers to mark the projected path of the vehicle. Ford also has added a third center line to help pickups connect with a trailer hitch. Ingenious.

No. 5: After market: No one has to wait until 2014 to get a backup camera installed on their car. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of aftermarket cameras that can be installed on just about any vehicle. Some require a cable be run from the camera to a small video screen mounted on the dash to much more advanced wireless cameras. They range in price from around $50 to a few hundred dollars and range in quality from $50 to a few hundred dollars.

No matter what system you choose or the government forces carmakers to install, the most important thing to remember is that technology will never replace a careful driver. It may assist us, make us a little safer and enhance the driving experience, but it cannot replace a driver aware of his or her surroundings.

I have driven thousands of cars with backup cameras, sonic detectors and other devices that assist with backing up. It's easy to take this technology for granted or find yourself in too much of a hurry or too distracted about other things to pay attention to your surroundings.

Technology will never make us safe; it will only remind us to be safer. The rest is up to us.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101204/AUTO03/12040312/Best-backup-cameras-improve-vehicle-safety#ixzz17LEzZfWS

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