When most people hear the term dashboard camera or dash cam, the first image that comes to mind may be that of a meteor barrelling to earth, an airliner clipping a bridge or unusual cargo spilling across a highway. That’s because dashboard cam videos have entered into our popular culture thanks, on one hand, to their prevalence in vehicles in Russia and also YouTube.
But do they have a future beyond being a viral curiosity? Some car makers and insurance companies think so. They may very well be an integral part of automotive careers at some point down the road.
What Are Dashboard Cameras?
Dash cams are small recording devices generally affixed to the interior of the windshield and occasionally placed on the dashboard itself. They start recording when the engine is turned on and send all video to an SD card. When the card is full, they record over the footage, kind of like a store security camera. There are more elaborate versions that provide rear-view footage as well and some even offer an HD-quality recording.
Until now, they have, for the most part, been after-market additions that people can install. Soon, though, they may be more standard. GM is pre-installing what it calls a Performance Data Recorder in its 2015 Corvette Stingray. This will integrate a dash cam with a speed and GPS info and produce a detailed video record of trips that looks almost like a video game.
While not all car companies will follow suit to that degree, it’s likely more will be offering vehicles with integrated dash cams. Soon, graduates of mechanic courses may have to know how to repair them and auto sales college graduates will make built-in dashboard cameras a part of their sales pitch.
The main reason Russia is known for dash cams isn’t a desire by many drivers to be YouTube famous. That just happened as a by-product. It was actually due to poor road conditions, problems with police and manufactured insurance claims. A dashboard camera is your reliable witness and many drivers in Russia felt they needed such a witness.
Can this technology also help resolve insurance claims in a North American context? Most certainly. Will insurance companies offer rebates to people who buy cars with dash cams already installed? That has yet to be seen.
There are other uses (such as helping law enforcement) which dashboard cameras bring to the table, but there is a potential downside too. Opponents of dash cam use cite privacy rights and data protection principles among their chief concerns. It is for these reasons that Austria outright bans their use (and imposes heavy fines for breaking that rule), Switzerland discourages their use and while Germany permits it, uploading to YouTube after the fact is strictly banned.
Regardless of what the future holds for dashboard cameras, we can still be amazed at some of their footage, like this shot of a meteor hitting the earth in Russia: