Fairfax Tech Column

Fairfax Tech Column

10.5.2019 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 145


In my formative years, I learned that a true test of character is how someone behaves when no one is watching them. It would appear that lesson was not widely distributed because the latest data on dashcams is quite interesting.

More on that in minute.

As so often happens with technology, there was an appetite for dashcams well before the technology could support it. We first started seeing the concept of a dashcam during car races. The world famous Hardie-Ferodo 1000 at Mount Panorama in 1979 was the first time Australian audiences witnessed footage from within a car. With a huge studio camera adapted for a car and a three-point mounting bracket from the roll cage, it wasn’t something that immediately seemed obvious would one day translate to the modern dashcam.

Texan Police were the first to latch onto the idea of using a camera to capture evidential information. They took a studio camera and connected it to a VHS recorder in the car and mounted it on the dashboard. Fairly crude but somewhat effective.

As technology progressed, three significant changes occurred. Firstly, camera lenses were reducing in size but increasing in quality. Secondly, we progressed from VHS cassette onto solid state memory devices – or memory sticks. And lastly, the entire video industry was dramatically increasing the quality of recordings. Combine small lenses, compact storage and high-quality images and you have exactly what is needed in a dashcam.

The industry still didn’t take off though – until along came Russia. Insurance fraud involving vehicles and police corruption were widespread in Russia in the early part of this century – to the point where the Interior Ministry permitted citizens to install in-car cameras in 2009. Within three years, over one million vehicles in Russia were fitted with dashcams and it is estimated that close to twenty million dashcams have been sold in Russia in total. Once ‘Funniest Home Videos’ started seeing so much dashcam footage that dedicated dashcam shows started, it didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on. The worldwide market for dashcams this year will be worth over $4.5 billion with almost 40 million units expected to be shipped. That is a lot of footage for the next episode of ‘World’s Worst Drivers.’ Some cars are even now shipping with cameras built-in. My car has 8 external cameras and three of those store footage for later viewing. 

Why do people install dashcams? They may do it to protect themselves and have a reliable witness if they are involved in an accident and use the footage to prove their innocence. Parents or employers may wish to use the footage to check on their children or employees – whether involved in an incident or just for general safe driving.

Back to my first point. When people are driving their car, they generally figure that they are behaving as if no one is watching them. Early data on dashcams has shown that a dashcam will reduce risky behaviour by teenagers by as much as 70 per cent. I am sure that data applies to a lesser extent to the rest of the population. That sounds like a great argument for installing a dashcam but if you are involved in an incident and you use your dashcam to defend yourself, will you end up being held responsible because you were speeding when the other person went through a Give Way sign?

Who knows – one day the Police may just pull you over and ask for your dashcam so it can be analysed for illegal behaviour!

Let me know if you use a dashcam at ask@techtalk.digital

Mathew Dickerson