GM’s camera rearview mirror is ok, Federal regulators say

2016 Cadillac CT6
Almost a year ago, General Motors showed off a rearview mirror that could stream feed from a camera, and promised to offer it on the Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan. Now, the feature has received approval from regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx confirmed this in an interview earlier this week with NPR. He then tweeted a letter dated February 22 confirming that the camera rearview mirror complies with federal safety regulations. Essentially, the NHTSA doesn’t believe that adding the camera component makes a difference in terms of compliance.

The mirror can switch between camera and conventional rear view with the press of a button. Using the rear-facing camera, Cadillac claims visibility improves by up to 300 percent, and that the view is as obstruction-free as in a convertible with the top down.  The camera is supposed to eliminate blind spots caused by pillars and such, and provide a wider-angle view.

After the CT6 goes on sale in the U.S. in March, GM plans to offer the camera rearview mirror on the 2017 Cadillac XT5 crossover and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car. The XT5 will go on sale in April, while Bolt EV production won’t start until closer to the end of this year. A feature like this helps GM show off its tech savvy, hence its inclusion on high-profile luxury cars and the company’s electric car tour de force.

While regulators seem okay with a rearview display that is still a conventional mirror, it’s hard to say whether they will go further. Certain carmakers want the government to legalize sideview cameras as a replacement for mirrors, in part because of potential aerodynamic benefits.

BMW showed a mirrorless i8 concept at CES last month, and Tesla Motors has lobbied hard for sideview cameras like the ones shown on the original prototype version of its Model X. Tesla and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbying group petitioned the NHTSA in 2014 to allow sideview cameras, but so far regulators haven’t budged.

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