Mr. Philippe D. Monnier
Ch. Des Vignes 37
Dear Mr. Monnier:
This responds to your August 12, 2015 letter asking whether your product complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) and FMVSS No. 205 in particular.
Your letter describes your product as a “holographic car navigation” system that projects “navigation information” on “a transparent film in the windshields.” Based on your description, we assume that your product might be installed on a new motor vehicle or as an aftermarket item.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (“Safety Act,” 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301) to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment and does not make determinations as to whether a product conforms to the FMVSSs outside of an agency compliance test. Instead, manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable FMVSSs that are in effect on the date of manufacture. Manufacturers are also responsible for ensuring that their products are free of safety-related defects.
NHTSA enforces compliance with the FMVSSs by purchasing and testing vehicles and regulated equipment, and we also investigate safety-related defects. For your information, I have enclosed a brief information sheet for new manufacturers.
Your letter broadly asks about laws and legislation that could prevent the sale of your product in the United States, yet provides little information about it. In this letter we discuss portions of the Safety Act and the FMVSSs that might apply to your product. However, we note that our answers to your question are limited by the breadth of your question and the minimal description of your product. Please note that our answer could change if information becomes available that indicates that the information upon which this letter is based is not as we had understood. Also, if we do not comment on an aspect of performance of your product, this does not mean we believe no requirement applies or that your product would meet all affected requirements.
To begin our discussion, keep in mind that what NHTSA laws apply depends on when your product is installed. If the device is installed as original equipment on a new vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer is required to certify that, with the device installed, the vehicle satisfies the requirements of all applicable FMVSSs. To determine how installation of your product could affect compliance with applicable FMVSSs, you should carefully review each FMVSS, available online at: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/ECFR?page=browse . Discussed below are two FMVSSs of which you should be particularly aware.
First, FMVSS No. 205 Glazing Materials applies if your product is installed on a new motor vehicle or if it is part of replacement equipment, such as a replacement windshield. FMVSS
No. 205 establishes the performance and location requirements for glazing materials for use in motor vehicles, including glazing intended for aftermarket replacement.
FMVSS No. 205 incorporates an industry standard, the American National Standards Institute American National Standard for Safety Glazing Materials for Glazing Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment Operating on Land Highways-Safety Standard (ANSI/SAE Z26.1-1996). FMVSS No. 205 and ANSI/SAE Z26.1-1996 include, among other things, specifications for minimum levels of light transmittance and require 70 percent light transmittance in areas of glazing that are requisite for driving visibility. Such areas of glazing include the windshields of passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and low speed vehicles.
Your product is a transparent film that would be applied to windshields. If your product will be applied to windshields on new motor vehicles or replacement glazing, it must meet all applicable requirements of FMVSS No. 205, including the 70 percent light transmittance requirement. There are also other performance requirements glazing must meet, such as for abrasion resistance.
Second, a projection system integrated into the vehicle might be considered a control, telltale, or indicators as defined in FMVSS Nos. 101 and 123.
S5.3.4 of FMVSS No. 101, Controls and Displays, specifies operational requirements on sources of illumination within the passenger compartment in order to prevent illuminated controls from distracting a driver who has adapted to dark ambient roadway conditions. Also, S5.2, Identification, specifies certain symbols, words, or abbreviations to identify each control, telltale and indicator listed in column 1 of Table 1 or Table 2. An example of one of the indicators listed in Table 1 is the speedometer. Although your letter provides little description of your device, any monitor or display must identify telltales and indicators appropriately.
S5.2.1 of FMVSS No. 123, Control location and operation, specifies location and operational requirements for any equipment listed in column 1 of Table 1. S5.2.2, Display illumination and operation, specifies operational requirements on sources of illumination in column 1 of Table 2. Also, S5.2.3, Control and display identification, specifies certain symbols, words, or abbreviations to identify each control, telltale and indicator listed column 1 of Table 3.
Safety Act’s Make Inoperative Provision
In addition, if your product is installed in a new or used motor vehicle, you need to take into consideration the “make inoperative” provision of the Safety Act, which states that:
A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter.
The “make inoperative” prohibition requires businesses that modify motor vehicles to ensure that they do not remove, disconnect, or degrade the performance of safety equipment installed in compliance with an applicable standard.
If one of the entities named in the make inoperative provision were to install this film as an aftermarket modification, it would need to ensure that its installation does not make inoperative any safety equipment with an applicable safety standard. For example, a manufacturer could not knowingly place a film on windshields that reduces the light transmittance or abrasion resistance of the glazing material or reduces the ability of the glazing to meet any other applicable requirement of FMVSS No. 205.
In the U.S., States have the authority to regulate the operation (i.e., use) of motor vehicles, and many limit how darkly tinted the glazing may be in vehicles or whether car navigation may be projected in the windshields of vehicles operating in their jurisdictions. Thus, we recommend that manufacturers check with the States to see if there are any requirements of which they should be aware.
I would like to draw your attention to a procedural regulation of which manufacturers should be aware. 49 CFR Part 551, “Procedural Rules.” Section 551.45 requires all manufacturers headquartered outside of the United States must designate a permanent resident of the United States as the manufacturer’s agent for service of process in this country. The regulation specifies the items needed for a valid designation.
One final note–please be aware that NHTSA has visual-manual distraction guidelines that could be relevant to products such as yours. The agency’s Phase 1 distraction guidelines apply to original equipment, and the agency is working on its Phase 2 distraction guidelines, which would apply to portable and aftermarket devices. Phase 1 distraction guidelines and other information is available at: http://www.distraction.gov/dot-activities/regulations.html .
I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact Sara Bennett of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Stephen P. Wood
Acting Chief Counsel
Ref: FMVSS No. 101, FMVSS No. 205
 49 U.S.C. §30122