Why Don't Backup Cameras Record Accidents?
A common question that many people have about their backup camera is one that seems pretty intuitive: If someone rear ends me, does my backup camera record accidents? The short answer to this question is no--but that’s an easily available answer, and doesn’t give you much information about why, how, or what you can do to protect yourself financial in the event of a crash where you are at fault. It seems like it’d be really great to have a video “black box” that could provide definitive information in the event of a crash. We’ll take you through several different possibilities for understanding why backup cameras don’t record, as well as options you can pursue or educate yourself on going forward.
Why they don’t record
Backup cameras don’t record for two primary reasons. One is that these cameras are only powered on when your car goes in reverse to save battery power. A camera that is running constantly is another drain on your car’s power systems and requires careful engineering to run properly. Additionally, cameras are fragile and easily damaged, and backup cameras are positioned on the rear of your vehicle, usually near your license plate or nearby, a common area for a rear end collision.
Second is the need for a storage solution. One common fix in this situation is for the camera or recording device to record for a period of time until the storage capacity of the device is full, and then the data is erased and a new period of recording begins. This process can be time consuming as well as energy consuming.
For both of these reasons, most manufacturers haven’t invested in backup cameras that record constantly. However, dash cams have grown in popularity, which we’ll cover in a moment.
Event data recorders
Does that mean you’re out of luck when it comes to recording in the event of a crash? Not so. Nearly 96 percent of new cars are equipped with what is known as an event data recorder. It’s safe to say that almost all new cars have tracking devices.
EDRs share a lot of common features with the “black boxes” contained on airplanes. Black boxes in cars started out recording airbag information, but as of 2012, vehicles today are regulated to contain EDRs that track 15 separate data points, for instance, speed, steering, braking, acceleration, and whether or not passengers were wearing seat belts. In the event of a crash, these tiny electronic devices can be run through a diagnostic that can give those doing the analysis information about what might have happened in a crash.
Unfortunately, most car companies are not required to disclose what these EDRs are recording, though most loop and erase data until a crash event occurs. In that scenario, these devices will save a few seconds before and after the crash. The information can be very telling about the cause and ultimate consequences of an impact, because often in this case, data does not lie.
Source: The Truth About Cars
A sticky situation for a black box
EDRs sound very helpful, and they can be incredibly useful for auto manufacturers looking to remedy car issues, and their information can be accessed in the aftermath of an accident to help determine fault if there are conflicting narratives about the crash itself. EDRs are usually accessed through what are called crash data retrieval tool kits, which are combinations of hardware and software that use a car’s onboard diagnostic port.
If this is sounding a bit science fiction, know that most cars manufactured in the last 10-15 years likely have these ports, and they’re a huge part of how car maintenance functions now. But here’s the difficult thing. These data retrieval kits cost thousands of dollars, placing them beyond the reach of most home mechanics looking to access their data. There’s nothing stopping you from doing so, other than the financial component, which angers some people. There are some additional legal sticking points, as many states have still not passed legislation that requires a subpoena to access an EDR by law enforcement
There’s also the possibility that these EDRs can be hacked, though the information on them is mostly trivial to a potential hacker.
If you want additional protection
Dash cams are used to record an area of your car, which could potentially be useful in the event of an accident. While some insurance companies may not consider the video to be admissible in an insurance claim, it never hurts to be careful if that’s what you’re concerned about.
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