Tesla and major auto manufacturers want to drag the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The electric car maker, which is finding itself in a fight for its life in several states, would like to replace side view mirrors on cars with cameras. Tesla petitioned the NHSTA along with the 12 other car companies that comprise the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM).
The AAM petition said the removal and replacement of the mirrors would not only boost safety, but since the mirrors create significant drag, their elimination would increase fuel efficiency. This is particularly important to Tesla. Its battery-powered Model S needs to be as sleek as possible to stretch its range.
While the NHSTA is notorious for taking its time before implementing any change, it has just put into place a new rule stating that all cars must have backup cameras as factory-installed features by 2018. So this could mean that it would be more open to the AAM's suggestion.
The AAM did not give any hard numbers to support how much drag would be reduced, but going mirrorless was something Volkswagen did with its XL1 car that gets an incredible 235mpg.
There was also no mention of how or where the camera displays would be mounted inside the car, nor any explanation if drivers would have to learn an entirely new way to drive. Teaching millions of Americans to look inside their vehicle to see what is going on outside at road speeds could prove problematic.
The NHTSA said it "considers revisions to its existing safety standards when our crash data and/or research indicate a safety need or in response to a petition asking that the agency do so."
"You can actually get these things changed, but it takes ages. Like one of the things we're trying to get is: Why should you have side mirrors if you could have, say, tiny video cameras and have them display the image inside the car?" said Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla's first concept car came out without mirrors, but since they are required by law these had to be added before it could be sold in the United States. Musk said he originally brought up the idea of dropping the mirrors with the federal government two years ago.