How do Vehicle Cameras Work?
Date posted: 24 August 2017
The automotive fleet industry has expanded rapidly over the last decade. With the advancements made in telematics technology, the rise of the connected car and the subsequent increased vigilance over driver and road user safety, the marketplace has and is altering irrevocably, continually surpassing its own standards of innovation, safety and efficacy. With increasingly integrated driverless technology, the industry is on the precipice of a huge paradigm shift.
One of the features that has progressed the fleet industry forward, that has also been widely adopted into and improved, civilian driving practices is the in-vehicle camera.
Whilst for civilian drivers in-vehicle cameras have been vital in the prevention and prosecution of dangerous driver behaviour on roads, particularly with cyclists and other vulnerable road users. For fleet managers and drivers, in-vehicle cameras, particularly 3G vehicle cameras, have been indispensable in lowering insurance premiums, fighting fraudulent claims and improving company profit margins, fleet efficiency and customer satisfaction.
But while a lot has been written about the numerous benefits of in-vehicle cameras, how they actually work is slightly more obscure.
What Are In-Vehicle Cameras?
Before we break down the interior mechanics of in-vehicle cameras, it is essential to understand what they are and what they do.
In-vehicle cameras are small forward facing dashboard or windscreen mounted devices that record footage of the road ahead whilst you are driving, capturing any accidents or incidents on camera.
Most in-vehicle cameras capture a massive amount of data outside of just the visual recording, in order to give a complete picture of both the driver of the vehicle with the camera attached and other road users. This enables companies to use them as evidentiary proof of innocence or culpability within insurance claims, as well as bettering their own business and logistical practices.
How Does an In-Vehicle Camera Work?
In-vehicle cameras come in many shapes and sizes and can include any number of features including image stabilisation, LCD display, wide camera viewing angles, SD card recording, full 1080p HD playback, dual passenger and road facing cameras, as well as GPS and full Google Maps, Earth and Streetview integration. More advanced systems like the SmartWitness KP1 also include dual road and driver facing cameras, full 3G or 4G transmission and track driving style.
But for the purpose of this article, we’ll take a look at the SmartWitness SVC1080-LCA.
Essentially an in-vehicle camera is a compact camera structure, hard wired to the vehicle battery, with a multitude of other features such as integrated GPS and maps and self-calibrating g-sensors, in order to record a total picture of the vehicle behaviour.
The SVC1080-LCA, for instance, has features like:
- Full HD Recording: The camera captures picture-perfect 1080p footage that mirrors the driver’s view of the road ahead, complete with a 170° lens that gives a wide angle overview of everything that passes between the vehicle’s front-most pillars.
- Adjustable frame rate: Set the camera to capture at anywhere between 1 and 30 frames per second, making it suitable for a variety of requirements.
- Built-in GPS receiver, Full Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View Integration: Ensuring the highest accuracy in vehicle location services
- Embedded 256 level Bosch G-sensor & motion-sensing capabilities: Record the location of a vehicle alongside the video, with a G-sensor even capturing details of the driver’s behaviour on the road, including the way they brake, accelerate and steer.
- Lockable cover: Further prevent tampering with a transparent case for the camera which can be locked to prohibit unauthorised access.
- Built-in battery backup allows the unit to finish recording even if the power supply is interrupted during an incident/ accident.
These features, which aren’t unique across the Smart Witness range, allow the camera to constantly record the driver’s view, vehicle location, the impact force of driving, audio and driving style such as speeding and braking.
But how exactly does this benefit the fleet?
In-Vehicle cameras are a lot more intelligent than mass data storage devices, which any camera could essentially be. As, when a feature, like the g-force sensor is triggered in the camera, for instance from harsh braking or swerving, the camera will store the data from a few minutes before, during and after the incident. Allowing any future viewers an accurate assessment of the incident, including who may have been at fault, the damage inflicted and the aftermath of.
This data is then either embedded onto an SD card within the camera, or sent to a hard drive within the vehicle or, through 3G connectivity, a hard drive offsite. With the majority of connected cameras, this footage can then be sent as an immediate incident notification to the relevant parties. Allowing a speedy response time.
But What Happens When the Storage Fills Up?
With the massive amounts of data collected daily, even with the large memory cards provided, the cup does eventually run over.
Rather than leaving gaps in the data, or mandating manual oversight and effort to consistently replace the SD card, in keeping with the needs of purposeful surveillance devices, in-vehicle cameras will overwrite SD cards when they become too full, allowing for the constant recording and storing of data.
However, whilst SD card run cameras have no doubt been useful, with the rise of 3G cameras, they are slowly becoming redundant – particularly with bigger fleets, where the ability to remotely monitor fleets is a necessity.
Without live connectivity, there can’t be immediate access to footage, meaning that fleet operators are wholly reliant on their drivers reporting an incident within a reasonable time frame and not tampering with the data. This may be fine for smaller fleets, covering tight geographical areas, especially for maintenance issues, as drivers can easily report back to head office, but for larger fleets, it is simply not cost effective.
Similarly, for claims handling, rapid liability assessment, along with immediate third-party intervention, is essential to reducing costs. Gaining immediate access to any video footage and supporting telematics data is necessary to identify fault and process claims faster. As well as to quickly and effectively support your driver’s and other road users with assistance, emergency or otherwise.
Do You Get Notified Every Time There’s an Incident?
Getting a notification every time your in-vehicle camera detects a forceful impact or aggressive braking will likely result in a data overload that renders your fleet information useless. Luckily, newer 3G cameras are setup with software that can intelligently filter out events that can be related back to things like potholes and poor road conditions, identifying actionable crash alerts are only sent out when necessary.
For more information on our range of in-vehicle cameras and live demos, give us a call on 0333 2000 670