Dashcams have come a long way from their early days as disconnected, dumb, low-quality video recorders. Now incorporating high-quality dual-lens cameras, 4G wireless, and CAN Bus integration for vehicle telematics, dashcams have become far more than the sum of their parts.
Dashcams have been on a long journey. From those bulky early models with low-quality sensors to the smart, connected, slimline versions of today, there has been significant progress. This isn’t just evident in the hardware powering the devices themselves, but also in the supporting sciences of telematics and risk management for commercial carriers and fleet operators.
It is in these behind-the-scenes services that the real innovation has been gathering pace. The power of modern drive recorders stems from hardware and cloud-based management portals, a combination that is already driving impressive growth. In pure hardware terms, the global dashcam market is expected to reach US$5 billion in 2024 according to some analysts.
Although the supporting services are crucial to fleet operators, to a casual observer the hardware improvements to modern dashcams are the most obvious to spot. Stepping back just a handful of years, a typical dashcam sported a VGA-resolution camera, removable storage (such as SD cards to manage video footage), and a small mobile phone-style battery. Fast forward to today and the difference compared to products such as the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder is stark.
In the case of the VIA Mobile360 D700, it integrates two Full HD 1080P cameras to capture broadcast-quality footage at up to 50fps — not just of the road ahead of the vehicle, but also of the rear view and cabin interior too. The cameras feature Sony iMX307 CMOS sensors that support HDR, a far cry from earlier, blocky VGA devices. They also include lenses that offer a wide field of view to ensure there are no blind spots.
These specs are a quantum leap from the early days of dashcams, but it is not just about the raw numbers. Dual-lens designs offer significant advantages over basic dashcams, as they mean that driver engagement can also be monitored, both negatively (in the event of an accident when the operator is distracted), but also positively (so dozing drivers could be awakened before an accident occurs).
In addition, the high-resolution footage of both the cabin and road ahead is particularly useful in the event of an accident-related dispute and can eliminate fraudulent or fake claims entirely by providing clear and incontrovertible evidence, frame by frame.
Connectivity for the future
Given the high capacity and performance of modern SD cards, it’s no surprise that SD is still the preferred medium of storage in most drive recorders. The VIA Mobile360 D700 incorporates a pair of SD slots that offer simultaneous recording from both front and rear cameras on two separate SD cards.
However, storage is one of the areas that has been transformed by LTE networks, with the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder also featuring an onboard 4G LTE module with antenna. The addition of 4G wireless means that footage can be automatically synced with cloud servers, ensuring that records are always up-to-date and removing complicated maintenance and upkeep workflows from commercial fleets.
Additionally, 4G network support enables over-the-air (OTA) software updates to take place, which can add extra functionality or patch future vulnerabilities all from a central management platform, saving time over manual methods. Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n connectivity also provides the opportunity to minimize data costs by carrying out OTA and video content uploads when connected to Wi-Fi.
Combined with a GPS receiver, which provides accurate positioning data at all times, a 4G wireless connection also makes real-time route tracking and monitoring possible. The ability to adjust and optimise routes, based on live traffic restrictions or accidents, can result in significant cost-savings for fleet operators.
Although real-time location and routing data is hugely valuable to fleet managers, combining this data with vehicle telematics provides deeper understanding. Modern drive recording devices, like the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder, feature CAN Bus integration for this very purpose. This allows the drive recorder to directly connect to a wide range of in-vehicle systems and collect detailed data, such as vehicle idle time, fuel consumption, speed, and distance traveled.
This information enables fleet managers to make further optimizations, by reducing idle time and improving fuel-consumption through better driver discipline. It also provides a vital safety net, because by setting bespoke event triggers, fleet managers can stay informed of developing situations, such as accidents, and provide proactive responses and solutions, rather than having to wait for a phone call out of the blue to trigger a reactive response.
Indeed, it is this ability to maximize the value of collated data that represents the quantum shift that is occurring in fleet activity of all kinds. While it has long been possible to use onboard telematics for basic compliance tracking — e.g. using GPRS and GPS to ensure that the correct driver breaks are being observed (for example, under EU rules all commercial driving must be recorded on a tachograph) — innovations such as AI interfaces are pushing the envelope.
Fleet challenges solved
Better data is undoubtedly a benefit, but without an effective way to analyse it, fleet managers can suffer from information overload. With increasingly advanced telematics, onboard sensors and real-time weather, traffic and congestion alerts — to say nothing of cargo logistics — there is a wealth of information flowing into systems, which often requires manual assessment. The resulting conundrum is that while much of the data could be actionable, there is not enough time to hit the moving target of maximizing efficiency. The potential gains, however, are huge, saving on fuel costs, vehicle wear and tear, maintenance and consumables, and ultimately improving safety margins, resulting in a better employee work environment. The savings in insurance costs and pay-outs from fraudulent claims alone can be worth the investment.
The future of fleet management
The value of fully-connected drive recorders is clearly established, and the adoption trajectory is set to be steep. Offering an ideal stepping stone to more integrated smart solutions such as ADAS , but without the hardware requirements or higher up-front investment, a connected drive recorder is a smart choice for fleet management applications, such as taxis and trucking.
Choosing a powerful ‘plug and play’ device such as the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder ensures that efficiency can be improved, while safety and productivity are also safeguarded. To learn more about this flexible and high-performance solution, please click here.
Note: This article is the first in a series of pieces about dashcam and drive recorder trends that we have recently published on the VIA website at www.viatech.com. The content has been amended in places.