Dashcams are popular in other parts of the world, but advances in technology are making them smarter and more prevalent in the U.S.
If you've seen someone using a dashcam, chances are it was in an Uber or Taxi. The tiny cameras have been around for years, but here in the United States it's mostly professional drivers who use them.
But that is all about to change, according to Eran Shir, founder and CEO of Nexar. His company has created a free app for Android and iOS that turns your phone into a smart dashcam.
"You want evidence on your side when you’re involved in a difficult situation," explained Shir.
Nexar automatically records your drives and stores the video on your phone, but if it senses an incident it will automatically use your cellular connection to instantly upload the video for sakekeeping to the cloud, where you can securely access it later.
"We can reconstruct and provide you with a report that tells you exactly who hit whom at what force… we can even estimate what are the chances you got hit and got whiplash," explained Shir.
The Nexar app also goes a step further - it uses artificial intelligence to analyze the driving situation around you. For instance, the app keeps track of drivers via their license plates and if it notices that there is a potentially reckless driver nearby, it will alert you to stay away from that vehicle.
I drove around with the Nexar app several times and found it a bit confusing to use, but I love the idea behind it. I purchased a $30 mount from Best Buy to keep my iPhone secured to my windshield while driving. I noticed in the video I captured that it was extremely shaky - not sure if that was the road I was on, the mount I got, the camera in my iPhone or a combination of all three. Also, it was a hot day when I used the app and my iPhone went into a temperature overheating mode.
Still, I see what Nexar is trying to accomplish and it is likely the future of driving. More information at our disposal, and many, many more hours of dashcam videos for insurance companies and investigators to pour through after an incident.
I also tried driving around for a few weeks with an "old fashioned" dash cam. It was a model from Papago. Basically, you just attach the tiny camera to your windshield and forget about it. When you plug it into your lighter socket, it automatically turns on and off with your car and starts and stops recording without any user intervention.
But it was tough to forget about it. I constantly found myself "looking" through the tiny back screen of the device, mesmerized by the way my drive looked through the little camera. I did love the idea of having a record of every drive I took, although having the camera in my car did make me self conscious on several levels. First, I no longer wanted to sing along with the radio. Could you imagine the laugh the cops would have upon reviewing the tape of any accident I might be involved in? Second, I felt like I had to be on my absolute best driving behavior since a camera was capturing my every move.
Although I didn't drive around with it, there is another camera I checked out from a company called Pyle that is just perfect if you're driving Uber on the side. It attaches to your rear view mirror and has two tiny cameras that record simultaneously so you get a front and rear seat view.
Overall, these dash cams are just an in between technology to what's really going to happen - software will eventually tap into the cameras manufacturers are already installing into the front and back ends of cars. Each car will roll around with a DVR inside, recording every drive and software companies like Nexar will employ their smarts to slice and dice the data from every drive.
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