Record Your Driving


Another wedding, another story. Last time it was my daughter’s wedding with a robot ring bearer (see  Dragon Runner Shows Up At Wedding As Ring Bearer). This time around it is my son’s wedding.

No robots this time around. Bob’s a chemical engineer and we could not use a 350 ton ladle of molten iron. On the other hand, it was a more traditional Chinese wedding with a tea ceremony. It was fun seeing the groom and groomsmen dancing and sing the gumgum style song but I thought this photo would be more appropriate (Fig. 1).

Actually this is a lead in to a gift I received from Celina’s parents. It is a car GPS camera from SAGA (Fig. 2). It is a neat toy and one that seems to be the rage in China. This type of camera is not new although there are not a lot of low cost versions. They have been the norm for cabs, police cars and other fleet vehicles. There are a variety of reasons for having them and probably a few for not.

The unit I have has a single camera but there are others with multiple cameras. A forward exterior and rear interior camera version is common. GPS and time stamping is standard.

These units normally mount on the dash or window (Fig. 3) but they hint towards what will likely be standard fare for cars in the future as cameras become standard features instead of options and add-ons.

One advantage of the add-on units is you control where the video is used. Those used in fleets or, in the future, those provided by an insurance company will likely move beyond your control.

One reason I bring up these cameras is to contrast it to another technological marvel, Google Glass (see A View Of Google Glass). Right now, these add-on cameras and Google Glass tend to be obvious when they are used. The car cameras tend to be mounted where you can see them. This will change though as they become built-in. At this point they will be more like the back cameras that are already common cars these days. You can easily spot them if you know where to look but it is not always easy.

These cameras highlight how technology is changing what we and others can do. The analysis programs used to detect license plates could be used on video recorded while driving. Is there actually someone following you? There are other things that could be recognized and the cameras do not have to look just forward or backward.

These units tend to be more obvious because of the built-in screens. They even have HDMI outputs. Cameras built specifically for surveillance can be smaller. I’m using a 16 Gbyte flash card but capacity tends not to be an issue and the speed and capacity of the flash cards continues to rise.

At this point, the use of these units is covered by a variety of laws that most people will not be aware of. Connected units in mobile vehicles are not the norm at this point but given the technology and the exploits of the NSA it is not too far in the future when we will have to contend with corporate and government entities wanting to look at where we have been, not just what cell phone calls we were making.

I am using the unit in a cross country trip now but I suspect that it will be a lot like the PVR system I have. I record a lot but watch only a little. Also, like insurance, I am hoping it is something that I will not need. It could be useful if I have a front end collision or see an accident in front of me. Till the, we will see what we shall see. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Aug 5, 2013

Oh, don't forget the quarrels drivers have during accidents. The camera can put an end to that too. To think of all the homicides caused by such petty quarrels.

(Also, congratulations to a new daughter-in-law!)

on Aug 6, 2013

One of the major problems with the technology you forgot to mention is the incredible inaccuracy of these cameras when it comes to recording alleged illegal police behavior.
It seems the rule rather than the exception, that prosecutors and especially juries discount the videos as evidence in these cases.

on Aug 13, 2013

Bill, congratulations to Bob and Celina. The tea ceremony is beautiful, having the privilege of seeing both Chinese and Japanese.
Good coverage on the SAGA maybe we will look into it for product tampering on Forager when parked.

on Oct 15, 2014

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William Wong

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
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