WASHINGTON — Mirrors have been a fixture of the automobile since the first Indianapolis 500, in 1911, when the engineer Ray Harroun outfitted his single-seat Marmon Wasp race car with a rearview mirror.
Rivals complained. They called Harroun reckless, saying he would put them in danger if he didn’t use the same visibility aid as the rest of the field: a mechanic who rode shotgun and watched the rear.
Harroun ultimately won permission to use the mirror. Then he won the race. Soon, the riding mechanic was obsolete.
A century later, the auto industry is starting to look again at how drivers should look back. As federal regulators finalized a long-awaited mandate for rearview cameras last week, Tesla Motors and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, automakers’ main Washington lobbying group, filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeking permission to replace side mirrors with cameras.