Monday 22 January 2018

Dash cams can be your best friends - so long as you're in the right

First drive in Oxfordshire: Technology in focus

Garmin's dash cam
Garmin's dash cam
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Quite what I was doing scampering around a gravel rally route in a battered Peugeot and faster Subaru I'm not so sure.

Ostensibly it was to see how Garmin's new dash cams (45, 55 and 65w) fared under the onslaught of speed, cornering, handbrake turns in the swirl of grit and dust.

As well as that the tiny cams let me record every agonising moment of my driving. And that showed how much I have to learn about handling a car on poor surfaces and being confident enough to use power rather than braking to keep from going off (I didn't but I nearly did).

It was fun, if bizarre, while it lasted; coming half a second behind a rival (I took third spot) was a bitter pill.

These latest-gen dash cams are so small yet have real ability in more civilised motoring contexts: on tarmac in traffic, for one.

Even more importantly their capacity to record and save sections of events before and after an accident or parking bump could be crucial in determining and apportioning blame and responsibility. Sitting unobtrusively on the top of the windscreen, they also add GPS capabilities for time and location data.

Big brother is watching: the new technology from Garmin
Big brother is watching: the new technology from Garmin

There are three versions: 45, 55 (probably most popular) and 65W. They have driver alerts (forward collision and lane departure warnings) and, importantly, with voice control you can keep your eyes on the road while telling them what to do.

Technical data alert: Dash Cam 55 provides video captured in 1440p, 1080p, or 720p with a 3.7 megapixel camera. The Dash Cam 45 captures 1080p or 720p with a 2.1 megapixel camera. They claim excellent clarity on the 2in LCD screen.

They also give speed-camera warnings and a 'Go' alert to prompt re-engagement with driving if distracted in stopped traffic. I like the idea of the new parking mode option (cable separately). It automatically records if someone bumps your parked car while you're elsewhere.

I also like the simplicity of how they work. They automatically start recording video as soon as they are plugged in. And for video storage, they include their own replaceable microSD card.

Prices for the 45 are from €169 with the 55 from €199.

But the Dash Cam 65W is the star of the show. It can capture an 180-degree wide-angle view and has 1080p video recording capability (or 720p with a 2in LCD display screen and a 2.1 megapixel camera). It too has voice control, speed-camera and 'Go' alerts, collision and lane warnings etc. It has a suggested retail price of €249.99.

There is no doubting the advance in technology and safety these cams can bring to driving, especially the forward collision and lane departure warnings which some car manufacturers make a fuss about when such items are included on their spec lists.

But a major main contribution in originally-fitted, as well as dash cam, equipment is the ability to reduce distraction through voice control. Having one in your car should be a factor in helping you reduce your premium too. Why don't you ask your insurance company?

The other thing is how efficiently a dash cam can provide evidence in the event of an accident that could keep you and others out of expensive claims courts. As far as I know one has been allowed in a case in England already. But what would you do if you were in the wrong? Would you volunteer the video? Could it be taken from you? The use of such technology - in dash cams and cars generally - opens up a range of issues.

Big Brother is watching more and more. He's welcome to the entire recordings of my rally run. Nothing to see there.

But what do you think of dash cams?


Twitter: @ecunninghamcars

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