Dashcams for Specialty Retailers
When the transition to autonomous vehicles happens, you can bet camera systems and onboard DVRs will be part of the equation. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers will want the ability to cover their behinds in the event of an incident - and if it were indeed the vehicle’s fault, troubleshoot the problem to make sure it can’t happen again. Today, dashcams are wildly popular in Russia, where the lack of authorities coupled to corruption lead to extortion and fraud. Luckily, in the United States, we have the ability to call local law enforcement for a police report when there is an incident. But sometimes it’s their word against ours. When that happens, the idea of a dashcam becomes very tantalizing for a customer. However, specialty retailers want to set themselves apart with camera options that are a step above the typical suction-cup mount dashcam. We want to be able to distinguish our products from a typical Uber driver with a six-year-old vehicle and wiring sprouting from the power port. Enter the latest and greatest in dashcams that take it to the next level.
Kenwood’s DRV-N520 is the first dashcam unit to be able to be linked to a compatible head unit. It sure makes it easy for the customer or the retailer to manage video recording on a touchscreen versus a cheap dashcam without a display. The entire unit can mount tidily flanked against the rear-view mirror and not be in the line of sight. Moreover is the peace of mind involved when the customer’s pride and joy is parked. An alert comes up on the head unit screen upon return that something caught the camera’s eye - alerting the customer to jump out and scan for any damage. Unlike other dashcam solutions, the DRV-N520 allows the end user to check out the instant replay as soon as the customer returns to the vehicle. If there were an alert that an event occurred when you were away, your customer will want to see the video footage ASAP… not wait until they are able to take the microSD card into the office and plug it into a compatible PC. After all, there could be a big door ding. In previous years, the culprit most likely would have vanished. But with the built-in G-sensor with shock and motion detection, the DRV-N520 can catch most vandals in the act. This gives the customer enough time to call law enforcement if the culprit is parked next door. Additionally, there are two important safety features built into both Kenwood units: Collision Avoidance Warning and Departure Delay Warning. Collision Avoidance Warning gives the customer audible alerts for impending traffic or obstacles. Departure Delay Warning is a really nice feature for anyone who has ever daydreamed at a stoplight. It gives the customer a reminder to ‘keep it moving’ when it sees traffic moving forward and can be a real road-rage reducer.
If the customer has a luxury vehicle and is not interested in ADAS Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, because they are already built into the vehicle, Kenwood also offers the standalone DRV-320. This unit features a front-facing camera on one side and a two-inch LCD facing the driver. The three-megapixel camera is capable of recording in high definition, resulting in an image that is large enough to pick out details while reviewing. High Dynamic Range (HDR) control provides improved color and depth for even more image clarity. There are three automatic recording modes included in the DRV-320 to protect drivers from liability. When the ignition is on, the camera continuously records into a digital folder on the included SD card. During this time, a built-in gyro sensor detects if the vehicle is in an accident. If an incident occurs, the camera automatically segments and stores a recording of the incident. Additionally, if the vehicle ignition is off, the camera will begin recording if there is impact to the vehicle while parked. There is a built-in GPS receiver that time-stamps and location-stamps every recording for future reference. Tony Mercado, marketing manager for Kenwood, noted, “The dash camera market, in many respects, has quickly become commoditized. However, consumers are now starting to see the differences in features and image quality, and are looking for models that will really help them if there is an accident or other event that requires high-quality footage. The DRV-320 is our answer to delivering a premium picture surrounded by intuitive functionality, even at a $200 price point.” At that low price, there is no excuse not to have a dashcam onboard a luxury vehicle as cheap insurance.
Entries from Pioneer & others
Pioneer also has jumped into the recording game this year with the introduction of the Pioneer ND-DVR100 dash camera. The unit automatically begins recording when fired up onto its included 8GB microSD card. The unit automatically deletes the oldest files to make room for the newest files so the customer will never ‘run out’ of tape just when they need the recording the most. There is a G-sensor onboard that detects impact-based incidents (such as a collision while in motion or a bump while parked). Those video files are locked and stored in an Event folder to prevent being overwritten and to provide later access to the video.
The video clips can be viewed directly on the camera’s display - a huge plus, especially if you are trying to persuade an officer writing a police report of your side of the story without relying on hearsay. We like the wide-aperture lens that provides high-quality recordings and still photos in daylight and low light. Why would a customer ever need still photos? If there were an accident you can accurately document the damage to both vehicles easily - right alongside the video footage to make documenting the case easy and have all files in one place. The 27.5 fps frame rate was specifically chosen to accurately capture LED traffic lights, which often operate at 60Hz – especially helpful in the case of a traffic signal related video. In addition to recording HD video, the ND-DVR100 has the capability to capture still images so that in the event of an accident, the driver can detach the camera and take detailed photos from outside the vehicle. The unit also mounts unobtrusively adjacent to the rearview mirror. The unit can run on its own rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, but installer knows how easy it is to run an unobtrusive wire for power and ground to the unit. The unit just began sipping with a suggested retail price of $150.
Metra Electronics also introduced DVR camera solutions, but one of the most interesting for a custom installation is from the iBeam line. The Front and Rear HD Night Vision DVR System TE-IFD captures video in both directions. There is a built-in g-force sensor to detect collisions which will then lock and protect that data from being overwritten. The customer can connect the unit to their smartphone using Wi-Fi on the smartphone app to watch a live recording of the vehicle’s surroundings. A motion sensor monitors activity while the vehicle is parked. If desired, the feed can also be connected to a monitor inside the vehicle. The system includes IR LED bar mounts for behind the rear license plate to improve visibility for nighttime recording. Metra allowed the TE-IFT to install seamlessly to any vehicle while maintaining an OEM factory look.
Also in the mix in the portable segment is Garmin, with the Dash Cam 65W. It sets itself apart by offering an extra-wide field of view good for monitoring cross traffic. There are red light and speed camera alerts based on a GPS-based database. The unit can be controlled by voice by saying “OK Garmin” to mark a recording in case something went down. A fun feature is the Travelapse, that will allow you to view your trip condensed without any video editing. It is pretty cool for anyone who wants to post expeditions on social media in ‘fast-forward.’ The customer can wirelessly transmit the video to a smartphone using the build-in Wi-Fi connection.
Newcomer Owl is trying the Apple approach. Voice commands allow you to save footage from the unit to your smartphone via a 4G connection with a service fee. The unit was designed by a team of seasoned entrepreneurs hailing from Apple, Microsoft and Dropcam. When driving, dual-facing cameras protect Owl users, capturing what happens on the road, both inside and outside of the car. When parked, Owl secures the vehicle with sensors that automatically alert the driver via the Owl Cam app. The app lets users see and use HD video evidence of everything from break-ins to mystery parking lot dings. Andy Hodge, Owl CEO, noted, “Cars need video security – badly. No matter how you look at it, whether in terms of dollars or physical damage or emotional harm caused, the car is a place where a lot happens. We built the Owl Car Cam to help people feel safer with a device that’s super easy to install and use every day. And with the Owl Car Cam, you’ll catch all the amazing, fun life moments that happen in your car, too.”
The dashcam market continues to grow. As of now, there are very few solutions coming from the OEMs. The few exceptions are set up for performance monitoring - such as PDR Performance Data Recorder on the Corvette that allows users to check out how they did on the track, but not necessarily allow them to play back accident or vandalism footage.
This is the time when the aftermarket can capitalize by beating the OEMs to the punch when it comes to integrating quality dashcams into the vehicle.