LAS VEGAS - Donnelly Corp. thinks drivers of sport-utilities and minivans need to know more about what's going on behind them.
The Holland, Mich., supplier is launching sales of a rear-vision system that uses computer-chip cameras to provide views of a vehicle's back seat and behind the vehicle. The camera images are projected on a small liquid-crystal display screen that mounts underneath the rearview mirror.
The system will be sold under the brand names VideoMirror, BabyVue and ReversAid.
Initially, Donnelly is selling the system in the aftermarket and on its Web site, www.donnelly.com, said Frank O'Brien, vice president of corporate planning. But the supplier also is talking to automakers about making the system a factory offering.
Donnelly hopes to capitalize on growing concerns about maneuvering large vehicles such as full-sized sport-utilities and minivans. In the past two years, automakers such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have added sonar-based reverse sensors that sound a warning as a vehicle nears another object.
Supplier Johnson Controls Inc. has helped drivers to better see passengers by developing a conversation mirror, a convex mirror mounted to the overhead console that makes it easy for the driver to check on rear-seat passengers with a glance. The mirror is offered on the Ford Windstar, Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans.
Components of the Donnelly system include two camera units. One mounts to the vehicle headliner with a clip similar to a garage-door opener. This unit has an infrared mode to make it easier to monitor passengers at night. The second unit mounts on the liftgate or tailgate of the vehicle with double-sided tape and is wired into a taillight. The view screen mounts to the rearview mirror with a plastic bracket, and the screen can be flipped up and out of the way. The entire installation takes about 21/2 hours, said Moe Gallegos, senior electronic technician for Donnelly.
One limitation of the system is that the view-screen bracket is compatible only with Donnelly design rearview mirrors. But Donnelly is one of the largest suppliers of rearview mirrors to the auto industry, ranking No. 57 on the Automotive News list of top 150 suppliers to the North American auto industry with sales of $615 million in 1999.