10313 Lower Azusa Road
Temple City, CA 91780
Dear Mr. Young:
This responds to your letter telling us of several types of outside rear-view mirror designs you have invented, and asking for funding, or assistance in obtaining funding, for you to develop and patent these inventions. I apologize for the delay in responding. Your purpose is to provide a wider view of the road behind the vehicle, and eliminate blind spots. Each of your mirrors consists of either a composite of two flat mirrors that are joined at an angle or a single convex mirror. Each is depicted as being mounted substantially in front of the driver.
I would like to begin by noting that, in a December 11, 1995 letter to you, this office told you about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) NHTSA has issued on a number of aspects of motor vehicle safety. Manufacturers of new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment must certify that their products comply with all applicable FMVSSs.
FMVSS No. 111, Rearview mirrors (I have enclosed a copy for your convenience), has a number of requirements that you should be aware of before you finalize plans for your invention. Based on your letter, you appear to intend to market these mirrors for buses, vans, and passenger cars. FMVSS No. 111 has different requirements for different classes of vehicles, such as passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, buses, trucks, and schoolbuses. You should review S5 through S10 of the standard to determine what requirements apply to the specific vehicles for which you intend to market your mirror.
We have identified four instances, described below, where your mirrors may fail to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 111. These are not meant to be exhaustive. A manufacturer that uses your system is responsible for ensuring that all the requirements of FMVSS No. 111 are met.
1. The requirements for passenger cars (in S5.2 of FMVSS No. 111) basically require a horizontal field of view, extending 8 feet out from the side of the car at a point 35 feet behind the driver. This field of view must be provided by a "unit magnification" (flat) mirror. Therefore, your convex mirror design (Devices D-3, D-4 in your illustrations) alone would not comply with the standard. Your composite flat mirror design (Devices D-3, D-5, D-6, and D-7 in your illustrations) would comply only if the required field of view were provided by a single flat surface of the mirror. Any extra field of view, beyond what is required, could be provided by other pieces of mirror.
2. Some of your mirrors extend the mirror from the vehicle only at certain times, by having the mirror fold out or slide out of a housing. The caption for Device D-4 describes an electrical switch with which the driver would manually deploy the mirror. The caption for Device D-5 says that the mirrors would be deployed only when the driver signals for a turn, and only on the side that has the turn signal on.
These designs would not be allowed under FMVSS No. 111. S5.2.1 of FMVSS No. 111 specifies the field of view that must be provided by the mirror at all times the vehicle is being operated. When your mirrors are not deployed, the requisite field of view would not be provided.
3. To deploy both mirrors simultaneously, you suggest that the driver would activate the emergency lights. The emergency lights are designed for emergencies. S5.1.3 of FMVSS No. 108, Lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment, prohibits installing motor vehicle equipment (including mirrors) that impair the effectiveness of the emergency flashers. We would consider a mirror system that requires non-emergency use of the emergency lights to impair the effectiveness of the lights, because other vehicles would not know whether there was an emergency or if the driver just wanted to deploy both mirrors to look around.
4. We also note a concern with Illustrations F and G. These depict the mirror position in the front left and right corners of the vehicle. We note that a mirror of unit magnification so far in front of the driver would have to be fairly large (possibly obscuring the driver's forward view of the road) in order to provide the required field of view. It would also have the potential to inflict injuries on pedestrians, being larger and at the front.
I would like to reiterate some of the information contained in our December 11, 1995 letter, because it also applies to your mirror inventions. The manufacturer of these mirrors would be subject to the requirements in sections 30118-30122 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code concerning the recall and remedy of products with defects related to motor vehicle safety. In the event that a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
Other legal requirements would apply depending on how your product would be marketed. Since your mirrors would not comply with FMVSS No. 111, they could not be installed on new vehicles to meet the standard=s requirements for mirrors. Similarly, a manufacturer, dealer, distributor or repair business could not install your mirror on used vehicles to replace the original mirrors. While we do not prohibit individual vehicle owners from modifying their own vehicles in any manner, we encourage owners not to degrade any safety device or system installed in their vehicles. In addition, since individual States have the authority to regulate modifications that individual vehicle owners may make to their vehicles, you might wish to consult State regulations to see whether your mirrors would be permitted.
Regarding your request for funds, NHTSA's Office of Crash Avoidance Research does not have a grant or contract program to help inventors develop or market their inventions. Our vehicle research efforts are primarily directed toward obtaining technical data to support the development of motor vehicle standards. Your submission has been reviewed by the staff in that office and there are no funds available from this agency for development of your mirror inventions.
Since you have given so much thought to mirror-related safety, you may be interested in knowing about an upcoming public meeting on the subject of mirrors. It will be on March 13, 1996, in Detroit, and I have enclosed a copy of the meeting notice in case you want to go. Even if you cannot attend the meeting, there will be a public docket where you can send your written comments.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Paul Atelsek of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel