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How does a dashboard camera work?

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

Dashboard cameras use digital video technology. Dashboard cameras can be broken down by: 1. How a dash cam operates 2. How the device manages data 3. How the camera data is used. The majority of these cameras face forward, but an alternative installation points them toward the inside of the vehicle. More complex systems may include cameras at the front, sides and rear to capture a 360-degree visual. 


The devices are usually powered by the vehicle’s electrical system and are set up to activate automatically when the vehicle ignition is in the ON position. Some dashboard cameras have a standby setting to record video while the vehicle is parked if activated by an impact or tampering with the vehicle from the outside. 

How a dashboard camera manages data

Simple dashboard cameras do not record the video feed; they provide a continuous display transmitted to a monitor, like the backup cameras in many automobiles. 

A dashboard camera that records the video file on storage media – a flash drive or internal SD card – has limited memory space, so when the storage reaches capacity the device automatically overwrites the existing file. To save a file the user downloads the data to another resource.

Dashboard cameras that transmit the images can make the video record available for viewing or storage at a remote location.

Some dashboard cameras include a feature that is especially useful in commercial vehicle fleets:  they can manage the data to preserve certain events. These cameras continuously record and overwrite files – but if the vehicle is subjected to an impact, sudden braking or other incidents, the device automatically uploads (transfers and saves) the recording segment that began a few seconds prior to the event and ended another few seconds following it.

This way, the dashboard camera captures a video record of the collision or similar occurrence.

How dashboard camera data is used

When installed in commercial vehicles, dashboard cameras provide fleet managers with information that helps these professionals evaluate driver behavior. Visual analysis of driver performance enables the manager or owner to recognize which drivers will benefit from additional training. This can improve fleet safety and reduce the expense caused by violations or accidents.

Dashboard camera video serves as protection against fraudulent insurance claims or civil litigation. The video file is an objective record that can help settle disputes more quickly and decisively than other forms of evidence can provide.

Some commercial vehicle insurers consider dashboard camera systems a cost-effective security and safety feature that qualifies the vehicle fleet for discounted insurance premiums. 

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