Federal regulators advanced efforts to replace the large side-view mirrors on big trucks with cameras by granting Stoneridge Inc., a company that builds the system, a five-year exemption to commercialize the technology.
A multiview camera system is as safe or safer than huge rear-vision mirrors on heavy-duty trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in a Dec. 21 decision.
“Those mirrors are big and bulky, and getting rid of them is a good thing,” said Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.
Stoneridge can retrofit its MirrorEye camera-monitoring system on existing trucks. If the data show it is safe, the FMCSA could approve the technology for factory installation on new trucks.
Freightliner and Peterbilt models in J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Schneider National Inc. fleets are testing the camera system alongside conventional mirrors. The two trucks have amassed more than 2.4 million accident-free miles, said Jon DeGaynor, Stoneridge chief executive and president.
Removing the two 50-square-inch mirrors attached to all big rigs improves aerodynamics and reduces fuel consumption by 2 percent to 3 percent, allowing the system to pay for itself in less than a year, DeGaynor said.
“A 50-square-inch mirror is insane,” DeGaynor said.
The MirrorEye system provides a view of adjacent lanes, the ground on each side of the truck and the blind spot over the front of the hood. Combined, it expands the driver’s field of view by an estimated 25 percent.
The system separately processes the multiple video images. If one camera fails, other images still display. The camera housing mounts high on the truck. A power-fold and breakaway feature reduces potential damage that occurs in normal operation.
The high-definition digital cameras pan the trailer, providing color night vision and low-light sensitivity to conditions like driving in tunnels at night.
By tracking the end of the trailer while the vehicle is moving forward, MirrorEye could eliminate collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists during a truck’s right-hand turns, Stoneridge said.
The camera system also may help reduce driver fatigue by requiring fewer head movements than needed with conventional mirrors. The video monitors mount inside both interior pillars.
Daimler Trucks unveiled a mirrorless version of its Mercedes-Benz Actros model in September at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany. It claimed a 3 percent to 5 percent fuel savings from more efficient air movement around the truck.
The MirrorEye system has been used on trucks in Europe since late 2016.
Drivers using the system “had an overwhelmingly positive experience,” Schneider National said.
J.B. Hunt drivers reported “excellent monitor image clarity … and elimination of the tractor’s front-passenger-side blind spot.”
The Trucking Alliance, a coalition of freight and logistics companies, said the Stoneridge technology eliminates “many of the problems (of) side mirrors.”
Critics said federal inspectors would no longer be able to use mirrors to see inside the cab and spot lack of seat belt use and other driving distractions. The FMCSA said that was beyond the scope of mirror regulations.
Stoneridge dismissed concerns about debris, dirt and rain blocking the camera system. MirrorEye features self-cleaning lenses, a heater to protect from ice and frost, and a special coating that resists moisture.