Car executives at companies like Ford, Volvo and General Motors speak often about the evolution of the automotive industry into an automotive and technology industry — and to an extent, that looks to be increasingly true.
The latest example of that is General Motors-owned Cadillac, which as of last month secured regulatory approval for its newest piece of safety technology: A camera-enabled rearview mirror.
It may seem small, even trivial, that General Motors can now legally outfit their Cadillacs with rearview mirrors that switch between a standard mirror to a live video feed of what’s behind the car, but the development spotlights how automakers are taking a more proactive approach to creating new technology.
For Cadillac, creating a rearview camera required the automaker to include a standard rearview mirror along with the video monitor to comply with existing safety standards. The mirror, which was on display at the New York Auto Show this week in both the Cadillac CT6 and the XT5, can be switched quickly from standard mode to video mode.
What makes this particularly interesting is the move runs counter to how the auto industry has typically operated — lumbering toward innovation, if at all, and making small advances in safety technology unless mandated to do so.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Association wanted to spur automakers along by responding more quickly to automakers’ requests, according to John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.
According to Capp, GM showed NHTSA the rearview mirror and how it worked on a number of occasions in the process of seeking approval and actually developed the mirror in a way that worked around the existing standards.
“Some of these standards say you have to have a mirror, so we said, “Okay, you can switch between the video and the mirror,” he told Re/code. “And that mirror has to have a certain amount of magnification; this video gives you more than that.”
It’s a more conservative version of tech’s “move fast and break things” mantra: GM is moving deliberately at a pace that lets NHTSA and other agencies keep up. Before introducing the feature, GM performed studies and worked with universities to ensure the reaction to the technology was generally positive and acknowledges that if the technology has negative effects, it’s subject to being recalled.
But even if the new rearview mirror has positive safety effects, as Capp expects it to, that doesn’t necessarily mean NHTSA will mandate it for all vehicle makers.
“To require something in a standard, NHTSA has to decide if it meets a need for more vehicle safety — if a problem exists in the field,” he began. “It has to be practical and cost-effective, so all vehicle makers can incorporate it. And it has to be objective; there has to be some way to test whether you’ll be able to meet that standard or not.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.