In-Car Surveillance Cam Gives Parents Peek Into Teen Driving Habits

from the they're-watching dept

While lawmakers continue to explore pointless laws and increased surveillance as means of improving road safety, one insurance company is experimenting with a new approach to get people to drive better. When the company sells insurance for teen drivers, it's offering to install a camera inside the car that parents can watch to monitor their kids' driving skills. The camera doesn't record everything, rather it only captures 10 seconds before and after a major event, such as a rapid deceleration. The point isn't to catch teens driving badly, rather it's to deter them from driving badly in the first place. And according to those who have participated in a study, the camera does have a deterrent effect. This of course raises all sorts of other issues. Will the insurance company watch the video or use its content to set rates? They say no, but it's conceivable that down the road, the company might be able to offer lower rates to those drivers that agree to have a camera installed. It's also the kind of thing that teen drivers aren't going to like very much, although the fact that it's not recording everything they do in the car might make it a bit more palatable. And if the driver gets the bright idea of taking down the camera, or covering it up, the parents will find out rather quickly. Still, even if this particular form of surveillance is less offensive than others, because it's voluntary, it still fits in with a broader societal theme, whereby safety, or the perception of it, trumps any other considerations.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ron, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:37am

    "rather it only captures 10 seconds before and after a major event, such as a rapid deceleration"

    What I really like to know is how the camera knows to start capturing video BEFORE the event occurred. Now that is progress!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    _Jon, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:38am

    The only way I would feel comfortable with this is if there were an iron-clad contract that stated the contents of the video were the sole property of the auto owner and that - without their consent - neither the insurer nor law enforcement could have access.

    Even the consent part is iffy for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ron, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:40am


    Thinking about that it means that the camera IS capturing all the time but only storing 10 seconds of it in a temporary buffer. I guess it permanently stores those last 10 seconds + the next 10 if something happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    neumann, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:43am


    I would be willing to bet it uses a buffer and is constantly recording and deleting at say, 30 second intervals. Similar to the way Tivo's live TV buffer works. When the software senses a "major event" it jumps back 10 seconds, stores that video permanently and records the following 10 seconds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:07am

    Just What We Need

    Thousands of 20-second videos showing teenagers' expressions as they wreck their cars; uploaded to YouTube for our viewing pleasure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Merchant, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:10am

    new market

    Surely I'm not the only one who sees an upcoming market in in-car videos. When the kids know more about hardware than their parents, it will only be a week before some kid is selling the cracker for this puppy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Cynical, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:20am

    Don't Trust Them

    The idea that it's using a buffer to capture the 10 seconds before and after a "major" event makes sense. I wouldn't put it past the insurance company to capture and save everything. Very usefull in denying claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Brad, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:21am

    Re: How it Captures BEFORE

    It's always recording, it just saves the last ten seconds of data when it experiences a rapid deceleration...

    Many cars already have this kind of technology embedded in them (think corvettes) that store the last 20 seconds of data (I think that's right).

    With cheap GPS chip sets and plenty of computing power available within a car it won't be long before your entire driving history (accleration, deceleration, orgination and destination and time) can/will be stored. All in the name of "lower" rates -- but when was the last time anything got cheaper? It'll just allow them to punish "bad" drivers and increase their margins through fewer (or dispute more) claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:22am


    Heck if my kid is driving, I want to know everything going on in the car. 20 seconds won't do it for me! I'll install my own car camera and it'll come equipped with booze and women, wait, forget the camera and women.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:35am

    temperamental POS

    I drove airport shuttle vans equipped with these. Full-time mechanics couldn't keep them calibrated, so the company mostly had to review exciting footage of drivers easing over speed bumps and then rolling our eyes. Supposed to be good for proving how many accidents were really someone else's fault, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Disgusted, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:43am

    Are we kidding here?

    Does anyone honestly believe that the God Damned Insurance companies aren't going to watch all they can to raise our rates? I for one will boycott this shit.
    Another ploy to violate our privacy and catch me doing 90 on the way home. Screw you Insurance companies, eh. nothing a BB gun cant fix... I'll tell you one thing anytime I see one of those things I will shoot it out... TRY ME.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:52am


    Moron. Of course the device doesn't know an event is approaching so it can record it!

    The device records on a continous loop but only saves the 10 seconds of video prior to the event.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    shane, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:13am


    this does help bigger companies with insurance. Everybody knows a labeled truck is good for some neck injury money. The company i work for has them in their truck, forward and rear facing. It helps in court. count twenty once in a while while you are driving, that is a lot of info.

    i don't personaly enjoy having the camera in the truck with me, but it has saved my butt a twice now.
    Person pulling out on me once and another time while the truck was parked another car with a faulty e brake rolled into my truck... it looked like my fault but video showed otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:45am


    Lets say it records sixty seconds. So at any time, you could go back sixty seconds. It is not knowing the future, just simply not dumping the data after it has been recorded, instead using an accelerometer to know when to save the video, and thus it will go back and save 10 seconds before the incident. (Again which has already been recorded)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Projectile, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 12:01pm

    Gotta love the insurance companies putting a nice projectile right next to your kid in the car.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    James, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 12:05pm

    I'm ok with this..

    .. that is of course, assuming its optional, and how it works is CLEARLY spelled out. The lack of privacy is very disturbing when its hidden, but if you know about it up front at least you can make informed choices.

    Also, the insurance companies might be able to offer some younger drivers an added discount for adding the camera if it shows it makes them safer. That could be a big bonus for some of them who pay very high rates by being lumped into a category of potentially higher-risk drivers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 12:44pm

    half the picture

    I can really only comment on this from a psychological and logical position.

    Cameras with recording devices can only establish visible facts after the event. Those facts are limited to the field of view and the timeframe of sampling, nothing more.

    The false assumption is that surveillance can prevent accidents or crimes. It cannot. You are no safer on an urban street covered by 10 cameras than on an empty country trail. You may enjoy an illusion of safety, but that is all you have. Sure, the camera may be of use to a detective in apprehending a criminal after the fact. That's no use to the victim if the crime is robbery, assualt, rape or murder. All that a recording does is ensure that the victim and their family can now suffer the indignity of having the crime shown to complete strangers on YouTube or Crimewatch television for their voyeuristic titillation.

    When it comes to road safety the same truths hold. The camera will not improve driving or reduce the occurance of dangerous events in the environment. It merely enables a person to later observe a very partial and subjective representation of what happened.

    Of course I agree with James and others that this might actually be rather useful. If admissable it is a useful witness in an accident.

    However, we should remember that insurance companies are not courts of law. They have no mandate to pass any kind of judgement based soley on the evidence of an installed camera. In a disputed RTA the insurance company can only base its settlement on the decision of a legal court or tribunal. Therefore it is only useful to the driver if the courts accept this footage as admissable evidence.

    Which leads to an interesting question. Who owns that footage? If two vehicles are involved in a RTA can the court sopeana the footage from one of the parties?

    Essentially the video footage obtained must remain the property of the driver who must be able to take a copy whenever they so wish. Having a "closed" system where the insurance company install a black box into the vehicle which only they can access is not an acceptable proposal, while one which serves the driver is acceptable and would provide a good motive for them to install the device.

    The folly is to believe that any video footage gives a complete picture of events. It may give an impartial picture, but not a complete one.
    Ultimately the evidence of real human beings at the scene must always trump what is captured on a camera with a limited field of view.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    duuh, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    If parents want to know

    how their kids are driving all they have to do is think back to when they were kids and ta da! That's how they are driving.. simple...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Just What We Need

    I was thinking the exact same thing...genious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Dru, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 2:02pm

    Of course once the thing gets hacked, it will be on all the time and Dad will get to see his little girl going full tilt boogie on her boyfriend! First bike helmets, now this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    EdB, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 3:29pm

    I wonder if it considers the back seat of a parked car as an opportunity to record a major event ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Tyshaun, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 7:26pm

    I used to work with a lot of security experts and I remember all of them saying the same thing about surveillance, primarily it's decent at detterance as long as people remember (or even know) they are under it, but it's primary role is to serve as proof for incidents that have already happened.

    While this technology may result in marginal savings for those who volunteer for it (more than likely, however, all rates will go up and the "discount" will be the currnt rate), the major winner of this technology will be insurance companies and the legal system which has another data point for when accidents happen. Guess what, since the video camera will probably be pointed at the drivers it will be lousy at proving your innocense but very good at pointing out when it's your fault.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    speaking of..., Feb 28th, 2007 @ 8:26pm

    Re: Just What We Need

    "check this sh** out", driving, crashing, "Ooop!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Storm, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 10:12am

    A violation of privacy

    It is a violation of our privacy and if i see one i will break it because its illegal to invade on peoples privacy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Mae Smith, Mar 15th, 2007 @ 8:12am

    Camera in teen cars

    I sgree as a teen driver I would want to be safe on the road and not worrying about gettting hurt in a car accident. I already lost a friend in a car accident so now I plan on being much safer on the road.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Mae Snith, Mar 15th, 2007 @ 8:16am

    Re: If parents want to know

    Not all kids are like their parents. I live my father and I am nothing like him. I am not even like my mother.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Patrick Henderson, Oct 6th, 2007 @ 9:27pm

    web cam in trucks

    Used in commercial vechiles employers are going to find it very hard to employ people with these web cams in trucks.It is already happening.People refusing to work for companies with the devices.People leaving companies when the devices are installed.There are very serious privacy issues which are being abused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    jmn, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    trunk monkey

    seen those commercials about trunk monkeys? I think we should all have one!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Jo smith, Apr 26th, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    Re: half the picture

    This camera system is b.s.

    Whatever happened to
    Kids having freedom

    It doesnt prevent anything bad from happening so whats the poin

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Jeremy piper, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 6:02am

    Honestly this is a very stuupid law to enforce to the public who on earth would agree to this ignorant law i mean come on people

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    william tina, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Sure I can understand that many teens across the country die everyday but come on this would cause lots of conflict to the parents if they agreed to enforce this law across america

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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