There’s been so much technological advancement in the last ten years, in smartphones, computers and even in car technology. So you might ask yourself, shouldn’t there be more factory installed dashboard cameras? And the short answer is yes! There are a few more cars that come standard with dash cams, but you would think it would be more widespread.
Dash cams, as an accessory, has global exploded in demand and is predicted to continue as the years go on. Global demand for advanced dash cams are going to expand 15% from 2020 to 2027. Consumers have realized that video evidence can cut through a lot of ambiguity when it comes to accidents or disputed events.
And the funny part is, this is clearly reflected in consumer sentiment. Meaning the people have spoken! AutoPacific recently conducted a study asking consumers what features would they most like in their future car and the top answer with over 70% consumer sentiment was having a factory installed dash cam. Yet manufacturers have dropped the ball, so to speak, when it comes to these offerings. I decided to take a deeper look at why that is.
But first, let’s go over the car manufacturers that have listened to the public and are offering a dash cam option when you buy a new car.
Cars with Built-In Dash Cams
Built-In camera technology has made its way to the luxury car manufacturers like BMW. The technology is called BMW Drive Recorder, but it doesn’t have all the features a normal dash cam would have. For one, there’s only two ways you can view footage. If you crash or the car detects a collision, the car will save footage from 20 seconds before the accident, and 20 seconds afterwards for a grand total of 40 seconds.
While it is useful when it’s needed the most, your options are limited if you wanted to see near accidents or any other interesting events. Lastly, you can manually activate the Drive Recorder from the iDrive menu. Like the previous scenario, you can keep the 20 seconds before you manually active the Drive Recorder and 20 seconds after. This is used if you know you’ll want to record something like on a race track or if you saw something you wanted to capture.
This isn’t the most reliable way to record footage, but it is forward progress. The Drive Recorder is available for BMW 7 Series, 3 Series, 8 Series, the BMW X5 and BMW X7.
Probably the most mainstream example of cars with cameras on it are Tesla’s. While the 8 surround cameras aren’t made for traditional dash cam functionality, their ultimate purpose is there to assist the driver. The autopilot functionality is slowly being worked on and firmware updates are pushed to the vehicle every so often.
A few years ago, Tesla decided to double the camera system as a dash cam so now one could record and store video footage onto a USB drive. It is called TeslaCam.
While the TeslaCam is always recording, in order to save the footage, you have to push the dash camera icon button and it will save the previous 10 minutes. There are issues with the TeslaCam when it comes to reliability. For one, you have to remember to click the dash cam icon to save the recording. Often if you are in an accident, emotions are high and logic is low. You might forget. Secondly, if you are in a serious accident, your Tesla car is designed cut off all electrical power to the vehicle to prevent any battery danger. This in turn means you won’t be able to save any footage.
All of this can be solved with some software updates.
Also, Tesla has Sentry Mode which is the equivalent to Parking Mode which begins recording when there’s any suspicious movement around your car. If any break-in is attempted, the car will trigger the alarm state which will play music full blast, activate the lights and horn and send an alert to your phone. We’ve seen many examples of this feature being used.
Subaru has implemented their new system called “EyeSight” on all Subaru vehicles except the BRZ. Why no love to the BRZ? This features 2 built-in dash cams near the rear view mirror. These cameras are meant to help with other rising safety features such as adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking or lane-departure assist.
But where I’m really interested is in the dash cam capabilities. And here, it falls short. Though EyeSight automatically records footage when the car is in an accident, it only records 22 seconds of footage. And it is not easily accessible. You can’t just re-watch it on your smartphone or download it to your computer. “You have to give written permission or you have to be subpoenaed”. Wow, so this adds a whole level of complexity to the mix.
On top of all of this, there’s yet another system called DriverFocus which is an internal camera pointed at the driver. It is supposed to measure drowsiness, fatigue and distraction which sounds good in principle, but brings up more privacy concerns. Is the footage stored somewhere? There may be some people like me that aren’t too thrilled to know that you are being monitored by AI.
This is for 2016 to 2019 Cadillac CT6 models only. I’ve scoured their websites and I think they have have discontinued them in future models. Anyways, the CT6 utilized 4 exterior cameras to record video. They are calling the system the Surround Vision Recorder. The system records footage to a SD card that is found in the trunk (why trunk?). According to Motor Authority, “The Surround Vision Recorder will record either a front or a rear view while driving, not both, though the driver can change the view on the fly.”
One good thing is that will record anyone trying to break into your car in addition to activating the alarm. Loop recording is standard and it will film in 5 minute flips.
From 2014, Chevrolet has began implementing their Performance Data Recorder (PDR) into their 2015 Corvette Stingray. Since then, currently all Corvette models including the Z06 and ZR1 include this feature in their navigation package. Camaro 1LE and ZL1 coupes also have this option available.
The PDR is mostly a performance driving analysis tool. It records metrics such as 0-to-60 mph accelerations, 1/4-mile time, GPS tracking and overlays data such as speed, braking, and g-force onto the footage. It is geared towards those who take their cars to the track.
That being said, there are some more traditional dash cam features that are included. There is a Valet Mode that can be activated when others are using the car which records video and vehicle data.
Besides that, the only downside is that you have to remember to start the dash cam every time you drive. Meaning, if you forget to turn it on and you get in an accident, there is no footage. The PDR also doesn’t have automatic crash detection so you are out of luck in that regard. But if you already have the car, or would use the cameras primarily as a track tool, the dash cam option is a nice addition.
Over in the UK, the Citroen C3 and C5 Aircross SUV has a dash cam option called ConnectedCAM Citroën. This is a dash cam that is built into the rear view mirror and is marketed to those who want to either record their journeys, but also to improve driver safety. It has wireless capabilities allowing access to the footage with a smart phone and allows you to share your footage to social media.
Interestingly, I see it marketed as more of a “share your moments” device than anything. In order to record anything, you have to long press the button on the mirror for it to record for a minute. You can then post it to social media. If an impact is recorded, it saves 30 seconds before the accident and 1 minute after.
The system features a 120 degree wide angle, a GPS, and internal memory of 128 GB. It records in 1080p.
Besides the UK, Australia Citroen recently decided to the drop this option going forward as they found it wasn’t selling as well.
That’s right, not Toyota in United States, but if you are a friendly neighbor to us, you may have the option to add a dash cam to your vehicle. It’s called the Toyota Genuine Dash Camera.
To be honest, I find this option to be a little bit of a cop out because the dash cam isn’t built into any existing system like the rear view mirror or the front grill. Instead, it is an add on that sticks right onto your mirror. This solution is not very different from an aftermarket solution.
That being said, I’m sure the installation is done for you so you don’t have to mess with any wires. It comes with a 8GB microSD card which you most likely need to upgrade. It is a single front facing camera and it does include loop recording which is great.
It includes crash detection where it will save 12 seconds before impact and 8 seconds after automatically. It also does have Parking Mode, which will automatically record for up to 60 seconds if it detects an impact. It also comes with its own mobile app to review footage.
We see the prices go upwards of $700 and we would rather go with an aftermarket purchase and deal with the wires ourselves then go with the Toyota route.
Why don’t newer cars have dash cams as a default option?
The first reason is the legal nature of these dash cameras. Here, in the United States, dash cams are widely used and legal in most states. There are some barriers such as how you are supposed to mount on your windshield and the best practice on how to distribute footage. It varies state to state as some states have stricter privacy laws than others. Some states are single consent states where you are allowed to record someone without their permission where many states like California adopt the two party consent law.
Outside the United States, privacy laws are all over the place. There are some countries like Luxembourg that outright ban the use of dash cams. And there are some countries where dash cams are legal, but you cannot use the footage unless it’s to dispute a legal claim. Car manufacturers realize if they implement a dash cam with the consumers in mind, that they may be alienating other populations as they wouldn’t be able to sell in a particular country.
If 70% of the countries allow dash cams, car manufacturers would still rather market to 100% of the available countries. This discourages them from implementing a recording device of some sort.
Do you remember ten years ago and the current state of technology? There’s been so many different advancements, phones have gotten thinner and bigger and large screen TVs are common place.
When people purchase cars, they are looking for the car to hold its value for many years. I still have a car from 1997 which isn’t even that old. My dad has a couple of cars from the 1970s And while we don’t look to those cars for their technological advancements, manufacturers understand any tech they implement can get outdated quickly.
Meaning if they put in the top of line dash cam today, it might be “irrelevant” in 10 years. Resolution might increase, image quality might sky rocket, or we might have a better solution to seeing better at night. If a dash cam is built into a car, it’ll be that much harder to upgrade or use years down the line. I remember when navigation systems were the latest technology in a car and just a few years later you can get everything on your phone.
This relates to the legality mentioned above, but I wanted to focus on the consumer in this bit. While I generally think more recorded footage of drivers is a good thing, I do understand that more and more of daily life is now under surveillance. What this means is that there are lots of consumers that don’t want to freely hand out their data. All this data is being stored in a SD card, but companies like Tesla are analyzing people’s driving behavior and road conditions. Other companies have internal cameras pointing at driver’s using algorithms to determine if a driver is fatigued.
I can see consumers be adverse to large amounts of change and the potential for the data to go to the wrong hands.