The drive recorder market is a crowded and fast-evolving sector. Keeping ahead of the latest trends in a dynamic and changing segment can be a challenge, which is why making the right hardware choices can be vital to delivering value to an enterprise over an extended deployment period. Let’s consider each of the technologies in a little detail, starting with cameras.
Quality Image Recording
The early days of vehicle dashcams saw a multitude of manufacturers rush into the market, often using low-quality components in order to hit conservative price points. The camera sensor itself was one of the most common areas where costs were cut. Today it’s still possible to find some dashcams that record at sub-HD and even VGA resolutions. Of course, these dashcams are addressing the very low end of the market, but buyers should consider camera specs carefully to make sure that they are not being short-changed.
Take the example of the VIA Mobile360 D700 Drive Recorder which contains a pair of Full HD Sony iMX307 CMOS sensors, recording footage at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution – an enormous leap over previous generations. 1080p image quality means that it’s possible to enjoy far greater image detail, facilitating the ability to zoom-in to reveal information such as vehicle number plates, for example. This can be enormously valuable, allowing captured footage to be used as evidence in the event of an accident or insurance dispute.
Newer, higher-quality devices like the VIA Mobile360 D700 also record at 50fps (frames-per-second), which means that footage can be played back frame-by-frame to hone in on the exact moment an incident or event occurred. Lower frame-rate cameras cannot offer this level of detail, especially when vehicles are moving at high speed. HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability is also significant, upping the detail level further as dark or shaded areas are captured in bright detail.
In terms of pixel density and high resolution video recording, sensor technology continues to evolve. However, while 4K or even 8K sensors have arrived in the market, the exponentially larger file sizes produced mean that transferring footage over existing wireless networks is slow and largely impractical. For most deployments, 1080p video recording remains a sweet spot, a scenario unlikely to change until 5G and other next-gen networks become commonplace.
It’s a Two-way Thing
The days of employing drive recorders and dashcams that only capture the road ahead, are rapidly coming to a close. Dual camera designs that capture high-quality footage of both the cabin and the road are increasingly required in both commercial and non-commercial vehicles. The VIA Mobile360 D700 for example, includes a 1080p rear-facing camera that offers detailed monitoring of the interior of the car, and the driver. This allows fleet operators to monitor the welfare of drivers and also to ensure that proper safety procedures are being observed at all times.
Two-way drive recorders promise to become a key component of Driver Monitoring Systems that use AI-powered analysis to spot potentially serious issues such as repeatedly drooping eyelids. If for example, a driver appears to show signs of falling asleep, such devices will be able to immediately alert the driver to wake up.
The increasing implementation of Driver Monitoring Systems means that dual cameras are rapidly becoming an industry standard, especially now that AI is maturing to include more driver-centric warnings and alert capabilities.
Cameras are only one part of an important array of sensors found within a modern drive recorder. GPS is obviously essential in providing location data, but another crucial and often overlooked device is the 3-axis G-sensor. This is used to detect sudden vehicle movements associated with collisions and emergency breaking. In such circumstances, specific actions can be triggered to ensure that footage is preserved, uploaded to the network, and even locked to ensure footage is not erased or tampered with.
Devices including the VIA Mobile360 D700 also includes IR (infrared) LEDs which ensure that low-light visibility is enhanced for darker cabin interiors, and night-time driving. Four IR LEDs are triggered by an additional light sensor to vastly improve image recording quality of both footage inside the vehicle and the road, a major advantage compared to previous generation dashcams.
Integration – More Than the Sum
Perhaps one of the most valuable recent developments in drive recorder technology has been the ability to combine video footage and location data with more traditional vehicle telematics common to the automotive industry – usually referred to as CAN (Controller Area Network) bus technology. CAN integration allows compatible drive recorders to integrate data such as vehicle idle time, fuel consumption, speed, and distance traveled. In short, the ability to integrate and aggregate data from all of these sensors (dual cams, GPS, G-sensor and CAN bus) makes a strong case for a drive recorder which is future-proof for years to come.
Connectivity is the Driving Force
To make sensor data actionable, fleet operators also want the ability to analyse it in real time, rather than having to wait for vehicles to return to base in order to recover key information. Older and lower-quality drive recorders rely on GPRS data transfer, which offers low-bandwidth transfer speeds not suited for Full HD video footage and reams of accompanying sensor data. This is why the latest generation of driver recorders offer faster and more capable 4G/LTE support which not only allows firmware be updated over the air (OTA), but also supports relay of telematic information in real-time.
The Future is AI-capable Drive Recorders
The vast array of data provided by modern drive recorders is becoming an increasingly valuable resource for commercial users and fleet operators. Meanwhile, AI and Edge AI monitoring continue to evolve, increasing driver safety and operational efficiency. All of which means that making the right choice of Drive Recorder can go a long way to dictating how far your vehicles are to the bleeding edge of what is possible.