Hyundai NZ introduced reversing cameras as standard equipment on all its passenger and commercial vehicles from July 1 – but not because such cameras are a safety net.
“We talked about safety but we kept away from it because we don’t believe cameras alone save children in driveways,” said its general manager Andy Sinclair.
“If people get run over there are a lot of factors involved – the driver wasn’t looking, people run out behind the vehicle, so many things.
“We surveyed people on Facebook – we have the largest Facebook following of any carmaker in New Zealand – and the overwhelming response showed that reversing cameras (above) were seen more as convenient and useful. So that’s the tack we have taken.”
Figures show an average of five children a year die on driveways in New Zealand and a child is seriously injured about every two weeks. Road safety groups have called for laws to have the cameras fitted to all new and older cars to help save lives.
The US has moved to make them mandatory on all new cars from May 2018, after research showed an average of 210 driveway fatalities a year, 31 per cent under five years of age and 26 per cent 70 and older.
But pushing through such laws doesn’t sit comfortably with some roading groups, who insist drivers must be more alert when reversing. The NZ Automobile Association has said it doesn’t support mandatory moves, nor does the National Roads and Motorists’ Association in Australia.
Its research manager Robert McDonald has said he is wary of legislating technology. “I prefer the market forces thing where it becomes unacceptable to sell a car without a reversing camera rather than mandating today’s technology for tomorrow,” he said.
An example of tomorrow’s technology that could make reversing cameras obsolete is already in use. It’s the radar-based units in the front of cars that, with an inattentive driver at the wheel, will automatically apply the car’s brakes to prevent it from hitting an obstacle.
It stops a car in the blink of an eye, especially at speeds below 35km/h. Fitted to the rear, it could stop it even quicker at lower reverse speeds if a child was in the way. Such systems are being trialed. They rely on reversing sensors that beep loudly before radar technology jams on the brakes.