A backup camera (also called reversing camera) is a special type of video camera that is produced specifically for the purpose of being attached to the rear of a vehicle to aid in backing up, and to alleviate the rear blind spot. Backup cameras are alternatively known as 'reversing cameras' or 'rear view cameras'. It is specifically designed to avoid a backup collision. The area directly behind vehicles has been described as a "killing zone" due to the associated carnage.
Backup cameras are usually connected to the vehicle head unit display.
The design of a backup camera is distinct from other cameras in that the image is horizontally flipped so that the output is a mirror image. This is necessary because the camera and the driver face opposite directions, and without it, the camera's right would be on the driver's left and vice versa. A mirrored image makes the orientation of the display consistent with the physical mirrors installed on the vehicle. A backup camera typically sports a wide-angle or fisheye lens. While such a lens spoils the camera's ability to see faraway objects, it allows the camera to see an uninterrupted horizontal path from one rear corner to the other. The camera is typically pointed on a downward angle, to view potential obstacles on the ground as well as the position of approaching walls and docks, rather than straight back.
Backup cameras are common on vehicles that tow difficult-to-see trailers, such as motorhomes. Recently, with the rise in popularity of in-dash DVD players and GPS navigation systems which aid in justifying the expense of adding a color LCD to the driver's seat, they have become much more common, often available as optional factory accessories on standard passenger trucks and sport utility vehicles, as well as aftermarket accessories. Inside the vehicle, the display is typically wired to automatically sense when the transmission is set in reverse, showing the backup view while in reverse, and showing the map (or other content) at all other times.
Backup cameras are produced in different varieties depending on the application.
The first backup camera was used in the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, presented in January 1956 at the General Motors Motorama. The vehicle had a rear-mounted television camera that sent images to a TV screen in the dashboard in place of the rear-view mirror.
The first production automobile to incorporate a backup camera was the 1991 Toyota Soarer Limited (UZZ31 and UZZ32), which was only available in Japan and not on its U.S. counterpart, the Lexus SC. The Toyota system used a colour EMV screen, with a rear-spoiler-mounted CCD camera. The system was discontinued in 1997. In April 2000, Nissan's Infiniti luxury division introduced the RearView Monitor on the 2002 Q45 flagship sedan at the 2000 New York International Auto Show. Introducing coloured onscreen guide lines as a parking distance parameter, the RearView Monitor operated from a license-plate-mounted camera in the trunk that transmitted a mirrored image to an in-dash (7-inch) LCD screen. It was available as optional equipment upon North American market launch in March 2001. The 2002 Nissan Primera introduced the RearView Monitor backup camera system to territories outside Japan and North America.
Aftermarket options for cars have been available for some time. Electronics manufacturers have made multiple car upgrades available that can be installed by professionals without replacing the car's center console.
Other types of camera systems can give a more comprehensive view.
In 2007 Nissan introduced their "Around View Monitor" on the 2008 Infiniti EX35, which uses four cameras to give a birds eye view of the vehicle. Other automobile manufacturers have since offered similar systems. BMW introduced their competing system called Surround View in 2009 on the F10 5-series.
Blind spot monitors are an option that may include more than monitoring the sides of the vehicle. It can include "Cross Traffic Alert", "which alerts drivers backing out of a parking space when traffic is approaching from the sides."
In the United States, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 required the United States Department of Transportation to issue backup collision safety regulations within 3 years and require full compliance within 4 years after final rulemaking.
The law specified a statutory deadline of February 2011 for issuing the final regulations; however, the DOT repeatedly granted itself extensions to the deadline, leading to doubts over whether it would ever be implemented in a timely fashion. In September 2013, a group of consumers and advocates submitted a petition to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, demanding that the DOT be required to implement regulations on backup cameras within 90 days. About half of model year 2012 automobiles were equipped with backup cameras.
On March 31, 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would require all automobiles sold in the United States built beginning in May 2018 to include backup cameras. On October 31, 2016, Transport Canada issued a similar mandate beginning at the same time.