Everything you need to know about backup cameras

backup and parking tech 2017 Ford F-450

While there are plenty of people who love driving, very few of us truly enjoy parking. Some of us may enjoy the thrill of “I can totally fit on that spot!” but the stress of not hitting someone’s car — or worse, a pedestrian — when backing out of a spot can leave us wanting to leave behind the whole parking headache. As it is with nearly every other area of automotive experience, carmakers have created a slew of backup and parking tech options to make the process easier. If you’re in the market for a new car, here’s what to keep in mind when evaluating its backup assist feature.

What to look for

Car parking systems tend to fall into two categories: cameras that help the driver see while backing up, and assist systems that try to warn the driver of a potential problem or — in some cases — actually intervene. The most common form of parking tech is the rearview or backup camera. These cameras are usually placed on the trunk lid or rear hatch, and send video to the same central display screens that handle infotainment functions.

Not all systems are created equal, though. Some reverse cameras have extra features like “dynamic gridlines” — which show the direction of travel — and certain automakers have upped the ante with 360-degree systems that use multiple cameras to create a composite overhead view.

In addition to cameras, many automakers offer some form of parking assist. These systems use sensors in the bumpers to detect when the car is getting close to an object. A series of beeps is often used to warn the driver. More elaborate systems incorporate “rear cross traffic alert” — which specifically looks for other vehicles crossing the car’s path — or the ability to apply the brakes. While we are increasingly seeing parking technologies totally take over the job from the driver, and the Teslas of the world certainly are neat, this technology is not yet as widely available as good back-up cameras.

Aftermarket systems

Sure, there are hundreds of dashcams on the market (we’ve sorted out the best dashcams for you, of course), but did you know that there are a variety of third-party systems to help you with backing up and parking, too? Your aging jalopy might be near and dear to your heart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get with the times and make things easier (and safer) for yourself. Which one’s the best? Well, that’s a subject for its own article.

Government regulations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was successful in making rearview cameras mandatory in 2018. So if you’re buying a car made after 2018, you can count on this nifty tool. It’s worth noting that while these systems can assist drivers, there is no substitute for simply paying attention in the first place. This tech can help make parking easier, but it won’t drive the car for you.

Who does it best?

General Motors

backup and parking tech
With just a touch, you can switch the rearview mirror’s view from a rear-mounted camera to a traditional mirror.

Sometimes, simple solutions can be the best. In this case, GM simply put the screen for a rearview camera where people already tend to look. The Rear Camera Mirror converts from a regular mirror to a screen, which streams video from a rear-mounted camera. This provides a better view than a regular mirror, but doesn’t ask the drive to do anything different. It’s just clever and convenient.

For GM year models 2019 and onward, GM introduced their 2nd Gen Rear Camera Mirror with additional features. In the 2018 model year, GM added spray nozzles aimed at the rear cameras in an effort to maintain a clear field of view for drivers.

Available on: The 2021 Escalade, The Chevy Silverado, and all other current GM models.

Nissan

nissan around view monitor back-up camera
The 360º composite view of Nissan’s Around View Monitor

Nissan was one of the first automakers to deploy a 360-degree camera system. While other automakers offer similar systems, Nissan’s Around View Monitor is available on the widest range of non-luxury models. Rearview cameras are great, but a system that lets the driver see all the way around the car (through a composite overhead image created from multiple camera feeds) makes parking even easier.

Available on:Nissan Leaf and all current Nissan models.

Subaru

While electronic driver-assist systems were commonplace on luxury cars before the introduction of Subaru’s EyeSight, this system helped bring the tech to mainstream cars. The latest version of EyeSight features reverse autonomous braking, which automatically applies the brakes if the system detects a collision and the driver takes no action. Many automakers offer forward autonomous emergency braking — itself a step beyond mere forward collision warnings — but it’s less common for this tech to be applied to backing up. Subaru EyeSight also offers adaptive cruise control features, which can be a lifesaver in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Available on: All current Subaru models, including the Subaru Forester.

Ford

The 2020 Ford Super Duty with the 6.7L Power Stroke V8 Turbo Diesel has 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft of torque.

Ford deserves a mention here for both the amount of parking tech it created and the vehicle it chose to apply that tech to. Heavy-duty pickup trucks aren’t known as tech trendsetters, but parking these big vehicles can be challenging, especially considering how often they are driven with trailers in tow.

Ford threw everything it had at their Co-Pilot360 technology. This beast is available with up to seven cameras, including one that can be mounted on the back of a trailer. The cameras enable forward and rear views, a 360-degree overhead view, and a view of the bed that’s useful when hooking up gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailers. The system can even coach drivers when backing up trailers, helping to avoid jackknifing.

Available on: All current Ford models, like the Ford Escape and the Ford Mustang.

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