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Back-up cameras could be required for all new 2014 vehicles   (Source:
The new rules, if finalized, would cost the auto industry $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion per year, but would save approximately 100 lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked Congress for an extension to finalize the new regulations that require automakers to improve rear visibility in all new models by 2014. 

The new regulations were supposed to be completed by today, but the NHTSA has requested more time in order to finish the new rules that are meant to save the lives of those involved in backup crashes.

The new regulations, which were proposed in December 2010, aim to eliminate blind spots in vehicles by improving overall visibility or adding backup cameras in all new vehicles by 2014. The proposal is meant to be a solution to the 300 fatalities associated with “backover” accidents that occur annually. It is also a response to the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Act, which is a 2008 law named after a young boy who was accidentally ran over by his father, and was meant to address such issues. 

Approximately 100 out of 300 fatal backovers consist of children ages five and under, and one-third of the deaths involve senior citizens who are 70 and older. Blind spots behind vehicles can make it hard to see pedestrians or cars approaching while backing up, and while automakers have already added video cameras and other detection sensors to vehicles, these devices are optional on many vehicles, and only about 20 percent of new models have such equipment.

"There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  

The new rules, if finalized, would cost the auto industry $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion per year. The regulation would add $159 to $203 in costs to each vehicle without a display screen (those with in-car navigation systems), and $58 to $88 to each vehicle with a display screen. 

According to a cost-benefit analysis conducted by the NHTSA, "the costs per life saved ranged from $11.3 million to $72.2 million - above its comprehensive cost estimate for a statistical life of $6.1 billion." 

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which is a trade group representing the Big Three automakers in Detroit as well as other auto companies, has stated that it needs more time to comply to the new regulations.  

"While the alliance supports the need for improvements in rearward visibility, the regulation as proposed involves a significant additional cost per vehicle," said the group earlier this month. 

But the NHTSA is pushing for the new rules regardless of cost, arguing that the cost automakers have to pay per vehicle is worth saving a life. So far, the plan proposes that 10 percent of the United States' new fleet will have to meet the new standards by 2012, while 40 percent will have to meet these standards by the 2013 model year, and then all new vehicles must comply by 2014.  

"The public comment period on this safety proposal only recently closed, and NHTSA has asked Congress for additional time to analyze public comments, complete the rule-making process and issue a final rule," said the NHTSA in a statement today.

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RE: Numbers can't be right
By ignatius on 3/1/2011 3:36:00 PM , Rating: 2
Did you read the article? It's 300 deaths: only 100 of those are children. The problem with your analysis is that you're only factoring in deaths, and only deaths of children at that. The cost is less than you assume because at least 1/4 of that cost would theoretically be made up in the lifetime of the child, assuming they grow up to be a productive citizen and work until retirement.

But there are plenty of other costs to consider. Injuries result in lost productivity as well as increased health-care costs. There is also the problem of property damage, which happens with nearly every accident, even if it's just the one vehicle involved. In other words, there are offsets to the costs, but it's not as easy to calculate those and they don't make for sensational headlines.

And it's not like the automakers are just going to take a loss: the price of a car will go up. Owning a car is not a right, unless you own your own land and your own roads.

RE: Numbers can't be right
By lightfoot on 3/1/2011 9:50:14 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with your analysis is that you are assuming 100% effectiveness, and assuming that every child injured or killed would automatically be an above average head of household breadwinner. Neither assumption could ever be assumed to be true.

My point isn't that this isn't valuable technology, or that it is not for a good cause. It is only that for $11 to $83 million (the figures stated in the article) you can do a whole lot more to improve and save people's lives than this technology will accomplish. Honestly, can you think of no better use of that money?

Is a single life really worth 4-5 entire lifetimes of work to save?

You are saying that in order to ensure that a single child reaches adulthood we should sacrifice the product of 175 man-years of labor. That math simply doesn't work and is utterly insane by any measure. And this is assuming the best case scenario (most lives saved at the lowest expected cost.)

Even after factoring in all injuries and property damage that may be reduced by this technology, it is still a losing proposition.

RE: Numbers can't be right
By ignatius on 3/2/2011 1:38:39 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not assuming 100% effectiveness, I'm just pointing out the shallow analysis with ever-so-slightly less shallow analysis. There's much more to a cost than an up-front dollar amount, and how much more depends on the myriad consequences that flow from the choice to bear that cost, or to hope the unseen cost is lower.

Plenty of costs seem absurd at that level of aggregation. Was the "Big Dig" worth $4-6 billion/mile? (And some people think public transportation is expensive!) Airbags easily run at 10 times the cost of this proposal. If the fatality rate is cut by 90%, we'll be saving roughly the same number of lives per-dollar spent. (I'm way oversimplifying here: $1000 for airbag parts and computer system, 17M new cars sold, 27K lives saved.)

That doesn't make this a great proposal, or even a good one. But there are significant wasteful expenditures, often grossly so, in both business and government. This is just one more in an infinite series, so I (fatalistically) just can't bring myself to care.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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