Understanding ADAS: Backup Camera Systems

Backup Camera Display

If your current vehicle doesn’t have a backup camera system, your next one likely will. Backup cameras became standard on all new light passenger vehicles in the United States — cars, trucks, and SUVs —  in May 2018. More and more people are experiencing their first backup camera driving experience daily.

In this post, we will provide an all-inclusive examination of backup camera systems, including why backup cameras are essential, how they work, and how they work together with other vehicle safety features.

What is a backup camera?

A backup camera, also called a rearview monitor or reverse camera, is an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) available in many vehicles made within the last twenty years. In an equipped vehicle, when drivers shift into reverse, backup cameras display a low, wide-angle view behind your car to improve driver decision-making.

Backup cameras offer clear benefits to drivers. Increased rear visibility makes reversing safer for those in and outside of the vehicle and improves the driver’s parking experience, especially for parallel parking. In a Consumer Reports survey, 67% of owners said they were very satisfied with their rearview camera. Additionally, 38% said that their system helped to avoid a crash.

Avoiding crashes is the point. Backup cameras aim to help drivers back up safely. There are two main scenarios to consider. The first scenario is backing a vehicle into obstructions or other vehicles. Parking lot accidents are common. These common fender benders cause drivers to need autobody work, which can be inconvenient and costly.

The second main scenario is a tragic one: backing over pedestrians. According to a 2010 government report, each year, 292 people die, and 18,000 are injured in light vehicle backover accidents. Sadly, two vulnerable populations are overwhelmingly affected. Of backover accident fatalities, 35% are children under five, and 26% are adults over 70. Backup cameras are already decreasing police-reported backing crashes, especially for drivers over 70 years old. It’s estimated that by the year 2054 (when the entire US fleet is expected to be backup camera-equipped), 58 to 69 lives will be saved annually by backup cameras.

How do backup cameras work?

Backup camera systems are designed to enhance safety and convenience when reversing a vehicle. These systems are composed of rear-facing cameras mounted to the bumper or rear of the vehicle and a viewing monitor, which is typically located either in the center console or integrated into the rearview mirror.

Camera and Lens Specifications

The backup camera itself uses a wide-angle or fisheye lens to capture a broad view of the area behind the vehicle. This design ensures that drivers have a clear and expansive view of any obstacles or pedestrians that might be in their path. To make the image intuitive for the driver, the output is displayed as a mirror image, meaning the left side of the screen corresponds to the left side of the vehicle and the right side to the right.

Activation and Display Features

When the vehicle is shifted into reverse, the backup camera automatically switches on. The system provides onscreen guidelines that appear on the monitor to assist the driver in navigating safely. These guidelines often include parallel pathway lines or distance lines, which help the driver to judge the distance between their vehicle and objects around it. These visual aids are crucial for finding and following a safe backing path, especially in tight or crowded spaces.

Advanced Features and Integration

Modern backup camera systems may also include additional features such as cross-traffic alerts, which warn the driver of approaching vehicles from the side, and parking sensors that provide audible warnings of nearby objects. Some systems integrate with other vehicle safety systems, offering a comprehensive approach to driver assistance.

The History of Backup Cameras

General Motors presented the first backup camera in a concept car in 1956. Its name was the Centurion, and it was presented at that year’s Motorama auto show. Sixty-plus years later, rearview cameras are mandated as standard equipment. In between, Toyota brought the first practical backup camera system for passenger vehicles to the Japanese market with the Soarer Limited in 1991. Ten years later, the first car available in the United States with a rearview camera was Nissan’s Infiniti Q45 in 2001.

By model year 2003, just 0.2% of vehicles came with a backup camera standard; by 2013, it was 10%, and by 2013, that number was 30%, according to iSeeCars. By the mandate in 2018, most automakers were ahead of the curve, already offering rearview monitoring standard. At the time, NHTSA estimated that 73% of new light vehicles would already voluntarily have cameras by the deadline. Accordingly, that made for 31% of all vehicles on the road outfitted with a backup camera in 2018. It’s estimated to be roughly half in 2021.

Related Camera Safety Features

Rearview cameras are not the only camera technology that’s making driving safer. Here are two related camera safety technologies to know.

  • Forward-facing ADAS cameras — Many ADAS-equipped vehicles take advantage of a forward-facing camera mounted to the windshield or the rearview mirror. Front cameras help with systems like adaptive cruise control (ACC), as well as pre-collision warning and braking systems.
  • Around view monitor — Around view monitor, also called 360-degree monitor, is another camera-based ADAS system. As Nissan describes it, “This four camera system creates a virtual composite 360° bird’s-eye view of your vehicle and the area surrounding the vehicle and allows you to select front, rear and curbside split screen views. The Around View Monitor can help you see every side of your Nissan in a whole new way.”

Rear Crash Prevention

Many vehicles equipped with OEM backup cameras also include additional safety systems that turn on when you shift into reverse. These backup safety systems rely on Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensors to inform their functions. ADAS sensors, such as ultrasonic sensors, radar, and LiDAR, work in conjunction with the backup camera to provide a comprehensive view of the vehicle’s surroundings.

  • Park assist — In addition to backup cameras, park assist is another ADAS helping drivers avoid backing crashes. During parking maneuvers at low speeds, park assist uses sonar sensors to detect nearby obstacles and warn them with a series of beeps.
  • Rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) — This system uses radar sensors in the left and right sides of the rear bumper to detect cross traffic when you are backing up. The most common scenario for this technology is used when backing out of driveways or backing out of parking spaces into cross traffic.
  • Rear automatic emergency braking (Rear AEB) — In equipped vehicles (though there are few) after warnings from parking sensors or RCTA are unanswered by driver braking, rear AEB automatically applies the brakes to avoid a backing crash.

The efforts and effectiveness of rear crash prevention systems are often studied together. Here are a few statistics:

  • 42% of respondents with ADAS equipped vehicles said that park assist or backup cameras had helped them to avoid a crash – JD Power Survey via USA Today
  • Backup camera, parking sensors, and rear AEB decrease backing crashes by 78%, while backup cameras alone decrease crashes by 17% and RCTA decreases backing crashes by 22% – IIHS HLDL

Backup Camera Limitations

Backup cameras can’t operate under all conditions. For example, snow, dirt, and even direct sunlight may cause camera visibility issues. Additionally, a backup camera does not make up for poor driving. Here’s how mycardoeswhat.org explains how to use the backup camera:

“Before you backup, always look over both shoulders and check all mirrors. Shift into reverse to activate your backup camera. The video monitor will turn on and act as an aid to help you see the area behind your vehicle. As you back up, check the video monitor as well as scan your mirrors and the surrounding area to make sure the coast is clear. “

Rear Sensor ADAS Calibration

ADAS systems rely on sensors. Sensors rely on proper calibration. Calibrating backup camera systems and rear vehicle sensors is vital for vehicle safety. Recalibration is critical after any collisions, alignment adjustments, or autobody work.

At Car ADAS Solutions, we are the ADAS calibration experts. We help our customers open up and operate ADAS calibration centers. We partner with leading ADAS equipment suppliers, providing site certification, training, implementation, support, and quality control.

Interested in owning your own calibration center?

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