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Will the NHTSA Specification be a Killer for Surround-View Cameras?

Wellingborough, UK – 22nd August 2011. While the “Kids & Transportation Safety Act” in the US is stirring-up much excitement for automotive rear-view camera suppliers, it is stirring-up much anxiety for surround-view camera suppliers. This is because, as it stands, surround-view is not allowed as an alternative to a “traditional” rear-view camera according to the current technical specification.

The “Kids & Transportation Safety Act” was passed in February 2008 to prevent accidents while reversing, prompted by consistently high numbers of fatal accidents involving young children. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) published a technical specification in December 2010 that proposed a camera-based system for all passenger cars, trucks and multi-purpose vehicles to aid when reversing. This would mean an increase of approximately 12 million rear-view cameras in just the US.

The crunch here is that the current proposal does not allow functions such as surround-view to be used as an alternative to the “traditional” rear-view camera. Being excluded from the US market would be a devastating blow for suppliers of surround-view systems, not only is the US the third largest market in the world, more importantly it is the largest market for SUVs and crossovers, which are the type of vehicle most suited to surround-view. For large SUVs and crossovers, the potential world market for 2011 would equate to almost 11 million surround-view cameras. This is because each vehicle requires a minimum of two cameras; but on average has four, and in some cases, five cameras.

A ray of hope still lingers though, as the nature of comments received in the 60-day feedback period following the NHTSA proposal has prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to postpone the final ruling and ask the NHTSA to carry out further tests and review the specification. “Having read through the technical specification and the comments made regarding it, it would be very surprising if the NHTSA did not change its current position and allow surround-view,” says Helena Perslow, senior market analyst at IMS Research <http://www.imsresearch.com> . She continues, “Looking at previous legislation, the NHTSA is quite responsive to comments that it receives, although in some instances fairly drastic action has been required – legal action has been taken against the NHTSA to change its position. Hopefully this won’t be the case here, but regardless it will cause the uncertainty to drag on.”

A final rule is due to be published by 31st December 2011, with full compliance to the final recommendation set for February 2015. IMS Research assumes the NHTSA will change the specification and forecasts that the surround-view camera market will be worth over $1bn in 2019.