Search Interpretations

11-007173_R_Kesler_(Std111)_Rearview_Mirrors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Ray Kesler

Kesler Research Enterprises, LTD.

17234 Pearlblossom Hwy, Ste 303

Llano, CA 93544

 

Dear Mr. Kesler:

 

This responds to two letters the agency has received from you dated September 7, 2011 and May 10, 2012, concerning your product: the Lane Change Safe Alert Indicator. In both of your letters, you describe your product in detail and various situations where you believe the product would be helpful to a driver conducting a lane change maneuver. As you describe in those letters, your Lane Change Safe Alert Indicator product utilizes modified OEM convex mirrors that have the alert indicators permanently inscribed on the mirror for both driver and passenger sides. Further, the mirror contains the warning Vehicles Larger Than Alert Indicator Are Unsafe to Lane Change [sic]. You state that your product is able to assist drivers in determining whether or not a following vehicle in the adjacent lane is at a sufficient distance such that it is safe to make a lane change maneuver.

 

It is not apparent from your letters whether you seek an interpretation of a Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) (and how these standards apply to your product) or to petition for changes to an FMVSS (and what such changes would be). While you state in your letter (September 7, 2011) that it is time to convert this concept into a Federal, OEM, Industry or Supplement standard [sic], your letters were not properly filed as a petition for rulemaking pursuant to 49 C.F.R. Part 552.4. Thus, we will respond to your two letters as a request for interpretation.

 

We note that you have previously requested interpretations from the agency regarding FMVSS No. 111, Rearview Mirrors, and a similar product that you designed. In those instances, the agency responded to your requests for interpretation[1] by explaining the requirements of the FMVSSs that apply to that product, whether or not it could meet those requirements, and the responsibilities of a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment. In those letters, we explained that the previous side view mirror product that you were inquiring about could not be installed on vehicles in order to fulfill the requirements of FMVSS No. 111 before the vehicles first sale. Further, we explained that they could not be installed as a replacement for mirrors installed in compliance with FMVSS No. 111 after the vehicles first sale. However, we stated that they are not prohibited by the requirements in FMVSS No. 111 from being installed as supplements to the required mirrors. As will be discussed below, the agencys position regarding your current side view mirror product is essentially the same as our position regarding your earlier side view mirror products given the similarities between the two products.

 

By way of background, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Motor Vehicle Safety Act) authorizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment.[2] NHTSA does not provide approvals or endorsements of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture. NHTSA selects a sampling of new vehicles and equipment each year to determine their compliance with applicable FMVSSs. If our testing or examination reveals an apparent noncompliance, we may require the manufacturer to remedy the noncompliance, and may initiate an enforcement proceeding, if necessary, to ensure that the manufacturer takes appropriate action.

 

(1)   Requirements of FMVSS No. 111 and Responsibilities of a Manufacturer of Motor Vehicle Equipment

 

FMVSS No. 111 requires passenger cars to have a driver side mirror of unit magnification.[3] While a passenger side exterior mirror (in passenger cars) is only required under the circumstances set forth in S5.3, the standard specifies that any vehicle that uses a convex mirror on the passenger side of the vehicle to meet the requirements of S5.3 must meet various requirements regarding average radius curvature.[4] Further, these mirrors are required to be labeled with the text Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.[5]

 

In our previous letters to you, we explained that your earlier products would not meet the requirements for convex mirrors in FMVSS No. 111 because they do not have the required text stating that Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear and have a radius of curvature that exceeds the allowable range in FMVSS No. 111.[6] While you have not offered additional information regarding the curvature radius of the mirrors described in your latest letters, you do specify that they are convex OEM mirrors that have been modified to include the alert indicator permanently inscribed onto the mirror. As your current product utilizes convex mirrors, it would not meet the requirements for the driver side exterior mirror in FMVSS No. 111 (because those mirrors are required to be of unit magnification). Further (if we assume the OEM mirrors that your current product uses meet curvature radius requirements), your mirrors could not be installed as a passenger side exterior mirror for the purposes of meeting the requirements in S5.3 of FMVSS No. 111 because they do not have the required text Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.

 

Please note that these requirements apply to new, completed vehicles and do not apply to mirrors installed as aftermarket equipment. However, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act prohibits any manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable safety standard.[7] The rearview mirrors in a vehicle are considered a device installed in compliance with an applicable safety standard. Thus, if the installation of an aftermarket mirror system resulted in a vehicle no longer complying with FMVSS No. 111, a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business performing the work will have violated the make inoperative prohibition of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act by making inoperative the mirrors required by FMVSS No. 111.

 

For the above reasons, the agencys position continues to be that your product is unable to meet the requirements set forth in FMVSS No. 111. Your product cannot be used by new vehicle manufacturers to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 111. Further, your product cannot be used to replace the mirrors installed by a new vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 111. On the other hand, your product may be installed on motor vehicles as a supplement to the required mirrors under FMVSS No. 111 by a new vehicle manufacturer or as an aftermarket device.

 

In addition to the foregoing, please be aware that manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment (e.g., vehicle mirrors) are also subject to the recall and remedy requirements in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.[8] If you were to sell your product as a supplemental mirror system and you or NHTSA determines that a safety defect exists, you must notify purchasers of your product and remedy the problem free of charge. Further, any manufacturer that fails to provide notification of (or remedy for) a defect may be subject to a civil penalty.

 

(2)   Petitioning for Rulemaking

 

The public can petition to alter or change an FMVSS.  However, this petition must be filed pursuant to the requirements in 49 C.F.R. Part 552.4.  If you wish to petition for rulemaking to amend an FMVSS, you should submit a petition for rulemaking pursuant to the requirements specified in 49 C.F.R. Part 552.4.   If you choose to file a petition for rulemaking pursuant to Part 552.4, you are encouraged to provide the necessary facts for the agency to consider the possibility of amending an FMVSS.  This would include such things as estimates of the crashes avoided, potential lives saved and/or injuries prevented.  Please note, including such information does not guarantee that the agency will be able to grant your petition. 

 

Finally, we note that you have previously filed a petition to amend FMVSS No. 111 in 1991.[9] In that petition, you requested that agency amend FMVSS No. 111 to require various characteristics on the vehicle side view mirrors that appear to be similar to the product that you described in your two latest letters. As NHTSA considered your petition in 1991 and denied it, you should demonstrate in any subsequent petition how the new petition is different from the petition that you filed in 1991 and address the agencys reasoning for denying the 1991 petition.

(3)   You May Not State in Your Advertising Material that Your Product is Registered with the NHTSA Chief Counsel.

We note that, along with your September 7, 2011 letter, you included promotional material that appears to be used for the purpose of advertising your product. This material states that your product is Registered with the N.H.T.S.A. Chief Council [sic]. This representation is incorrect. NHTSA has not registered this or any other rearview mirror design. NHTSA does not approve any motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment, nor does the agency endorse any commercial products. Instead, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act establishes a self-certification process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. Therefore, this language must be immediately removed from the advertisement and you must refrain from making such representations in any other format.

 

Please respond in writing describing the specific steps that you will take to discontinue these misrepresentations. I appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.

 

If you have any further questions, please contact Jesse Chang (202-366-2992) of this office.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

O. Kevin Vincent,

Chief Counsel

 

Ref: Standard No. 111

Dated: 9/25/12



[1] See Letter from Paul Jackson Rice, Chief Counsel, NHTSA to Raymond B. Kesler, Kesler Research Enterprises, (May. 14, 1992) (available at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/7175.html); Letter from John Womack, Acting Chief Counsel, NHTSA to Lawrence Hufstedler and Raymond Kesler, Kesler Research Enterprises, (Apr. 27, 1993) (available at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/8517a.html), Letter from John Womack, Acting Chief Counsel, NHTSA to Ray Kesler, Kesler Research Enterprises, (Jul. 2, 1993) (available at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/8660.html), Letter from John Womack, Acting Chief Counsel, NHTSA to Ray Kesler, Kesler Research Enterprises, (Jan. 9, 2001) (available at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/kesler23584.html).

[2] See generally 49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq.

[3] See 49 C.F.R. Part 571.111 S5.2.1.

[4] See 49 C.F.R. Part 571.111 S5.4.

[5] See id.

[6] See Letter from John Womack, Acting Chief Counsel, NHTSA to Ray Kesler, Kesler Research Enterprises, (Jan. 9, 2001) (available at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/kesler23584.html).

[7] See 49 U.S.C. 30122.

[8] See 49 U.S.C. 30118-20.

[9] See 56 Fed. Reg. 42715