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Most new cars have smart safety features like automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, or something similar. But one safety feature that even the most basic new car has is a backup camera. Here’s the story of how the backup camera came to be, why it’s so useful, and where it might be heading next.

Why they’re mandatory 

Cars are usually for driving forward, but sometimes, you have to back things up a bit. In most cases, that means backing your car out of the driveway. For most drivers, this means using your rearview mirrors to see what’s behind your car. But unfortunately, like Edmunds said, those rearview mirrors just aren’t that useful. 

In fact, Edmunds says that every year, 15,000 people will be injured by a car backing up. Tragically, 210 people will die from that, and even more tragic is the fact that 31% of those deaths will be from young children. That’s the nightmare scenario of the child who’s too small to be seen with the rearview mirrors and the driver who couldn’t stop in time. 

Backup cameras solve this issue, as they provide a way for the driver to see what’s directly behind their car. This way, cars can avoid hitting and injuring anyone. As a result, like Edmunds said, the U.S. government started requiring every new car to have a backup camera if it’s made after May 2018.

What’s good and bad about them

As Edmunds said, backup cameras solve an issue that rearview mirrors had. This was a mechanical problem, but it still doesn’t solve the human problem. Just like the case of hot car deaths, human error can also be a cause of these tragic accidents. 

The backup cameras may be mandatory, but it’s not mandatory to use them. In fact, Edmunds says that a study showed that 20% of drivers actually looked at their backup cameras when they were backing up. 46% of drivers looked at their backup cameras if the cameras sounded an alarm, and most modern backup cameras will have those alarms. 

To be clear though, backup cameras do work and they are making the country safer. Edmunds says that the most recent study showed that, with the rise of backup cameras in cars between 2008 to 2011, the fatality rate of accidents involving cars backing up fell by 30%. That said, because of how old that study was, Edmunds thinks that its findings should be taken with a grain of salt until a more modern study is done on it.

The future of mandatory safety equipment

While it’s difficult to predict the future, the market is already trending toward more standard safety equipment. And much of that standard safety equipment comes in the form of cameras. For example, modern SUVs such as the Nissan Kicks has a surround-view camera system that allows you to see around your car in 360 degrees.

On top of that, smart technologies that will automatically detect pedestrians and then stop your car for you are already a common feature. These smart safety features, which are found in cars such as the Lexus UX, provide automatic protection for both you, your car, and everyone around you. 

Given the fact that a lot of people, according to Edmunds, don’t even use their backup cameras, making a system similar to automatic emergency braking a mandatory feature seems like something that may happen sooner than later. If your car will automatically brake for you if it sees someone playing behind your car, then that will only lower fatality rates even more. 

That said, many people were promised flying cars by the year 2000, so what becomes mandatory and what doesn’t is really up in the air.