[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 10 (Wednesday, January 15, 2020)]
[Pages 2486-2489]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-00556]



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2019-0159]

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Vision 
Systems North America, Inc. Application for an Exemption

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of final disposition.


SUMMARY: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 
announces its decision to grant Vision Systems North America, Inc.'s 
(VSNA) application for a limited 5-year exemption to allow motor 
carriers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with the company's 
Smart-Vision high definition camera monitoring system (Smart-Vision) 
installed as an alternative to the two rear-vision mirrors required by 
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). The Agency has 
determined that granting the exemption to allow use of the Smart-Vision 
system in lieu of mirrors would likely achieve a level of safety 
equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the 

DATES: This exemption is effective January 15, 2020 and ending January 
15, 2025.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jose Cestero, Vehicle and Roadside 
Operations Division, Office of Carrier, Driver, and Vehicle Safety, MC-
PSV, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001; (202) 366-5541; 
[email protected].
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments submitted to notice requesting public comments on the 
exemption application, go to www.regulations.gov at any time or visit 
Room W12-140 on the ground level of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ET, Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays. The on-line Federal document 
management system is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. 
The docket number is listed at the beginning of this notice.



    FMCSA has authority under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315 to grant 
exemptions from certain parts of the FMCSRs. FMCSA must publish a 
notice of each exemption request in the Federal Register (49 CFR 
381.315(a)). The Agency must provide the public an opportunity to 
inspect the information relevant to the application, including any 
safety analyses that have been conducted. The Agency must also provide 
an opportunity for public comment on the request.
    The Agency reviews safety analyses and public comments submitted, 
and determines whether granting the exemption would likely achieve a 
level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be 
achieved by the current regulation (49 CFR 381.305). The decision of 
the Agency must be published in the Federal Register (49 CFR 
381.315(b)) with the reasons for denying or granting the application 
and, if granted, the name of the person or class of persons receiving 
the exemption, and the regulatory provision from which the exemption is 
granted. The notice must also specify the effective period and explain 
the terms

[[Page 2487]]

and conditions of the exemption. The exemption may be renewed (49 CFR 

VSNA Application for Exemption

    VSNA applied for an exemption from 49 CFR 393.80(a) to allow its 
Smart-Vision system to be installed as an alternative to the two rear-
vision mirrors required on CMVs. A copy of the application is included 
in the docket referenced at the beginning of this notice.
    Section 393.80(a) of the FMCSRs requires that each bus, truck, and 
truck-tractor be equipped with two rear-vision mirrors, one at each 
side. The mirrors must be positioned to reflect to the driver a view of 
the highway to the rear and the area along both sides of the CMV. 
Section 393.80(a) cross-references NTHSA's standards for mirrors on 
motor vehicles (49 CFR 571.111, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 
[FMVSS] No. 111). Paragraph S7.1 of FMVSS No. 111 provides requirements 
for mirrors on multipurpose passenger vehicles and trucks with a gross 
vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 4,536 kg and less than 11,340 
kg and each bus, other than a school bus, with a GVWR of more than 
4,536 kg. Paragraph S8.1 provides requirements for mirrors on 
multipurpose passenger vehicles and trucks with a GVWR of 11,340 kg or 
    The Smart-Vision system consists of multiple digital cameras firmly 
mounted high on the exterior of the vehicle, enclosed in an aerodynamic 
package that provides both environmental protection for the cameras and 
a mounting location for optimal visibility. Each camera has proprietary 
video processing software that presents a clear, high-definition image 
to the driver by means of a monitor firmly mounted to each A-pillar of 
the CMV, i.e., the structural member between the windshield and door of 
the cab. VSNA explains that attaching the monitors to the A-pillars 
avoids the creation of incremental blind spots while eliminating the 
blind spots associated with conventional mirrors. VSNA states that its 
Smart-Vision system meets or exceeds the visibility requirements 
provided in FMVSS No. 111 based on the following factors:
     Increased field of view (FOV) when compared to 
conventional mirrors--The Smart-Vision system enables the driver to see 
(1) vehicles and pedestrians in the ``No-Zone,'' (2) multiple lanes of 
traffic and overtaking vehicles that are entering the commercial 
vehicle ``No-Zone,'' (3) tire fires, and (4) loose straps, ropes, or 
chains when transporting open cargo.
     Increased Image Quality--The Smart-Vision system provides 
enhanced vision in inclement weather, higher visibility in low light 
conditions, and filters out dawn and dusk sunlight glare, improving 
driver visibility.
     Fail-safe design--The Smart-Vision system elements have a 
fail-safe design due to the independent video processing of multiple 
camera images, additionally supported by software diagnostics to ensure 
that ``real time images'' are displayed and that any unlikely partial 
failure is clearly identified.
     Reduced Driver Fatigue--The Smart-Vision system results in 
less lateral head and eye movement by the driver due to the monitor 
location on the A-pillar, and VSNA believes that this may result in 
lower levels of driver fatigue after extended driving times.
    The exemption would apply to all CMV operators driving vehicles 
with the Smart-Vision system. VSNA believes that mounting the system as 
described would maintain a level of safety that is equivalent to, or 
greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption.

Request for Comments

    FMCSA published a notice of the application in the Federal Register 
on September 26, 2019, and asked for public comment (84 FR 50878). The 
Agency received 5 comments from: The American Bus Association (ABA); 
the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA); and 3 individuals.
    ABA supports granting the application to allow use of the Smart-
Vision system as an alternative to the two rear-view mirrors required 
by the FMCSRs. ABA stated:

    Camera-based visibility systems or CBVSs, like the Smart-Vision 
technology, are vehicle technology advancements ABA believes should 
be deployed to improve safety of CMV operations. Such systems are 
currently being installed and tested by equipment manufacturers in 
limited capacity; however, to ascertain real-world viability, 
equipment manufacturers need to deploy these systems for use in 
actual commercial operations. As with FMCSA's decision to grant an 
exemption to Stoneridge, Inc. for use of its MirrorEye Camera 
Monitor System (see Docket No. FMCSA-2018-0141, published February 
21, 2019), we believe the deployment of VSNA's system in place of 
mirrors will achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than 
the level of safety provided by the regulation.

    In addition, ABA stated that when compared to traditional mirrors, 
the Smart-Vision system provides additional visibility benefits 
including (1) anti-glare, (2) improved visibility at night and during 
adverse weather conditions, and (3) elimination of blind spots by 
providing a broader field of vision around the vehicle. ABA noted that 
the improvements in driver visibility can lead to enhanced 
maneuverability in backing up or turning a large vehicle. ABA also 
stated that eliminating the side mirrors may also provide fuel 
efficiency gains and carbon emission reductions, and may assist in 
reducing actions that lead to increased driver fatigue such as head and 
eye movements.
    Further, ABA states that granting the exemption will be consistent 
with both (1) FMCSA's decision to grant an exemption to Stoneridge, 
Inc. for a similar system, and (2) recent activities by NHTSA relating 
to possible revisions to FMVSS No. 111. Specifically, NHTSA published a 
notice and request for public comment on August 28, 2019 (84 FR 45209), 
on a proposed collection of information relating to a multi-year 
research effort to learn about drivers' use of camera-based systems 
designed to replace traditional outside rearview mirrors. Initial 
research will focus on light vehicles and be followed by research 
examining camera-based visibility systems on heavy trucks. 
Additionally, NHTSA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking 
on October 10, 2019 (84 FR 54533), seeking public comment on permitting 
camera-based rear visibility systems as an alternative to inside and 
outside rearview mirrors.
    CVSA stated that while it recognizes there may be potential safety 
benefits of the proposed technology, it does not have data to support 
or refute the efficacy of camera monitor systems technology. However, 
CVSA noted that its associate member companies that have some 
experience with camera monitor systems reported that ``drivers 
responded favorably when testing the technology and preferred them in 
place of traditional side mirrors.'' CVSA noted that in 2018, roadside 
inspectors conducted 2.41 million vehicle inspections and issued only 
2,497 violations of section 393.80 of the FMCSRs for failing to equip a 
vehicle with two rear vision mirrors--a violation rate of just 0.06 
    Additionally, CVSA noted that granting the exemption may have 
impacts on roadside enforcement personnel, as inspectors use the 
mirrors for purposes beyond the intent of the FMVSS and the FMCSRs. 
Specifically, CVSA states that roadside inspectors use the mirrors to 
see what is happening inside the cab, and to identify when CMV drivers 
are operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, such as illegally using a 
handheld electronic device, or

[[Page 2488]]

not wearing a safety belt. Additionally, roadside inspectors frequently 
use mirrors to visually communicate with drivers during roadside 
inspections, when at the side or rear of the inspection vehicle. CVSA 
stated that it is unclear whether the technology has a proven safety 
benefit, and noted concern that exemptions from safety regulations have 
the potential to undermine consistency and uniformity in compliance 
enforcement, and encouraged FMCSA to consider the roadside enforcement 
and inspection aspects of rear vision mirror usage in the evaluation of 
the application.
    Three individuals commented in support of granting the temporary 
exemption, and noted various advantages of the Smart-Vision system as 
compared to the rear vision mirrors required by the FMCSRs including 
(1) improved field-of-view around a CMV, including reduction/
elimination glare and blind spots (2) increased visibility when driving 
at night and during inclement weather, and (3) reduced driver fatigue.

FMCSA Decision

    The FMCSA has evaluated the VSNA exemption application, and the 
comments received. For the reasons discussed below, FMCSA believes that 
granting the exemption to allow motor carriers to operate CMVs with the 
Smart-Vision system installed as an alternative to the two rear-vision 
mirrors required by the FMCSRs is likely to achieve a level of safety 
equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the 
    Use of the Smart-Vision system provides CMV drivers with an 
enhanced field of view when compared to the required rear-vision 
mirrors because (1) it eliminates the blind spots on both sides of the 
vehicle created by the required rear-vision mirrors, (2) the multi-
camera system expands the field of view compared to the required rear-
vision mirrors by an estimated 25 percent, and (3) the system uses high 
definition cameras and monitors that include features such as color 
night vision, low light sensitivity, and light and glare reduction that 
together help provide drivers with improved vision in the field of view 
when compared to traditional rear-vision mirrors.
    FMCSA notes that the Smart-Vision system is currently being used in 
a number of European countries as a legal alternative to the 
traditional rear-vision mirrors under the requirements of ISO 
(International Organization for Standardization) 16505:2019. That 
standard provides minimum safety, ergonomic, and performance 
requirements for camera monitor systems to replace mandatory inside and 
outside rearview mirrors for road vehicles. The ISO standard addresses 
camera monitor systems that will be used in road vehicles to present 
the required outside information of a specific field of view inside the 
vehicle. According to VSNA, there are approximately 300 vehicles 
certified with the Smart-Vision system to date.
    FMCSA acknowledges CVSA's concerns regarding the inability of 
roadside inspectors and law enforcement officers to use rear-vision 
mirrors for the other uses described in its comments if the exemption 
is granted to permit use of the Smart-Vision system in lieu of the 
mirrors. However, use of the rear-vision mirrors for purposes other 
than driver visibility is beyond the scope of the FMCSR requirements. 
FMCSA notes that inspectors may still communicate with drivers by means 
of hand signals/gestures if the system is on, and the driver will 
continue to see everything that would have been in view with the 
    In its application, VSNA notes that the Smart-Vision system is a 
fail-safe operating system due to its independent video processing of 
multiple camera images. VSNA states:

    In the unlikely event of an individual camera failure, the other 
camera images continue to be displayed. Proprietary software ensures 
that real-time images are continuously displayed without 
interruption. In addition to the Smart-Vision multi-camera redundant 
design, mounting the camera housing high on the vehicle and 
providing both a power-fold and breakaway feature further reduce the 
potential damage that is possible in normal operating environments.

    The FMCSRs impose several operational controls that will help 
ensure that the Smart-Vision system is functioning properly at all 
times. Section 396.7 of the FMCSRs, ``Unsafe operations forbidden,'' 
prohibits any vehicle from being operated in such a condition as to 
likely cause an accident or breakdown of the vehicle. Section 392.7(a) 
requires each CMV driver to satisfy himself/herself that a vehicle is 
in safe condition before operating the vehicle, which would include 
ensuring that the rear-vision mirrors (or in this case, the Smart-
Vision system)--are in good working order. Similarly, section 396.13(a) 
of the FMCSRs requires that, before driving a vehicle, a driver must be 
satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition. If the 
Smart-Vision system (effectively functioning as the rear vision 
mirrors) fails during operation, the driver must complete a driver 
vehicle inspection report at the completion of the work day as required 
by section 396.11 of the FMCSRs, and the motor carrier must ensure that 
the defect is corrected.

Terms and Conditions for the Exemption

    The Agency hereby grants the exemption for a 5-year period, 
beginning January 15, 2020 and ending January 15, 2025. During the 
temporary exemption period, motor carriers operating CMVs may utilize 
the VSNA Smart-Vision system installed in lieu of the two rear-vision 
mirrors required by section 393.80 of the FMCSRs. FMCSA emphasizes that 
this exemption is limited to the VSNA Smart-Vision system, and does not 
apply to any other camera-based mirror replacement system/technology. 
Section 396.7 of the FMCSRs, ``Unsafe operations forbidden,'' prohibits 
any vehicle from being operated in such a condition as to likely cause 
an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle. If the camera or monitor 
system fails during normal vehicle operation on the highway, continued 
operation of the vehicle shall be forbidden until (1) the Smart-Vision 
system can be repaired, or (2) conventional rear-vision mirrors that 
are compliant with section 393.80 are installed on the vehicle.
    The exemption will be valid for 5 years unless rescinded earlier by 
FMCSA. The exemption will be rescinded if: (1) Motor carriers and/or 
CMVs fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the exemption; (2) 
the exemption has resulted in a lower level of safety than was 
maintained before it was granted; or (3) continuation of the exemption 
would not be consistent with the goals and objectives of 49 U.S.C. 
31136(e) and 31315(b).
    Interested parties possessing information that would demonstrate 
that motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles utilizing the 
VSNA Smart-Vision system installed as an alternative to the two rear-
vision mirrors required by section 393.80 of the FMCSRs are not 
achieving the requisite statutory level of safety should immediately 
notify FMCSA. The Agency will evaluate any such information and, if 
safety is being compromised or if the continuation of the exemption is 
not consistent with 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315(b), will take 
immediate steps to revoke the exemption.


    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31313(d), as implemented by 49 CFR 
381.600, during the period this exemption is in effect, no State shall

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enforce any law or regulation applicable to interstate commerce that 
conflicts with or is inconsistent with this exemption with respect to a 
firm or person operating under the exemption. States may, but are not 
required to, adopt the same exemption with respect to operations in 
intrastate commerce.

    Issued on: January 6, 2020.
Jim Mullen,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2020-00556 Filed 1-14-20; 8:45 am]