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December 2019 – trafficcameraweb

Month: December 2019

Securing Pedestrian Safety

As the American population continues to grow, cities throughout the U.S. see a population influx in many regions. As more people congregate in urban environments, economic forces in these areas often see a substantial increase in many aspects, and there are many benefits from this ongoing population trend.
As cities grow, so do the benefits that many sectors of a city experience. Everything from entertainment, hospitality, and economic drivers like jobs benefit from larger urban cities.
However, as cities continue to grow and attract more residents, the number of pedestrians hurt or killed in these densely populated areas increases too. As cities continue to grow, the number of people living, working, and spending time in downtown locations increases too.

This makes traffic accidents involving pedestrians one of the leading forms of death in the United States today.Technology: The Problem Or The Solution?
There is no debate whether mobile technology is increasing the rates of accidents involving pedestrians. From playing Candy Crush while walking to browsing through Facebook or even texting, interaction with our smartphones is becoming one of the leading causes of traffic accidents.
As this technology continues to be a driving force for accidents, mobile technology is also becoming integrated into existing traffic equipment to help make city streets safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.
There are plenty of technological advances that you can find in the city streets. Everything from sensors that communicate with each other, to smart traffic lights, and even advanced public transportation is being used to help make public roads safer in urban environments.

Along with making our streets safer for pedestrians and drivers, advanced technology is also making an impact on improving air quality and efficiency for commuters. Let’s take a look at how some cities across the globe are utilizing technology to make their streets safer today!1. New York City
New York City is known for the grid-lock traffic, frequent pedestrian activities, and one of the most popular non-stop entertainment spots in the world. However, as New York and surrounding cities continue to grow, so does the incidents of traffic accidents involving pedestrians.
To help improve the safety of their streets, Manhattan is implementing a million dollar program called Midtown In Motion. This initiative will integrate cameras, field sensors, and FRID readers at intersections to communicate real-time data about a given area to residents and a central command center.
While this initiative is not new, it is part of a growing effort to make Manhattan safer for all visitors. One of the most innovative pieces of Midtown In Motion is that real-time data won’t only be available to traffic engineers, but this data will also be accessible to drivers.
This means that drivers will be able to choose the best routes based on actual street-level data as they navigate NYC.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority sponsored KLD associates to come up with software that can be used in the metro area. As their efforts expanded, KLD ended up creating a software system that modifies signal patterns according to the change in traffic volumes, and this improves the traffic flow.
2. Curitiba, Brazil
One of the fastest growing cities in the road sits outside of the United States, but city planners here in the U.S. are taking note of some initiatives being used in Curitiba, Brazil. When it comes to urban planning, there is a widespread belief that any city with over one million residents should consider installing a subway to avoid traffic congestion.
However, as Curitiba hit the million person mark in the 1970’s, they weren’t ready for a subway because of the $300 million price tag that came along with it. As an alternative, Curitiba officials looked to an innovative bus system called the Rapid Bus Transit system to help make a smarter rapid transit system.
Unlike many other bus systems, the Rapid Bus Transit has exclusive traffic lanes throughout the city to help reduce the number of traffic jams caused by bus stops. Along with improved traffic lanes, the Rapid Bus Transit also communicates with smart traffic lights to help the buses easily transport more people with less delay throughout the day.
Today, the Rapid Bus Transit systems services over 2 million people each year, and due to the success of the system city officials are looking to overhaul the aging fleet with over 500 new 92-foot buses to run biofuels. Brazilian officials are excited for the economic and environmental improvements that these buses will bring, as fewer people will be driving3. Sydney, Australia
The geography of Australia is unique, as it has to push large pockets of residents together to build large cities in specific areas of Australia. As more people have congregated in these cities, Australia has taken innovative efforts to improve pedestrian safety throughout the urban environments.
One of these initiatives is the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) and was first produced by computer engineers in the 1970’s. This innovative approach to traffic safety uses sensors and cameras on sidewalks to monitor traffic volume in a specific location at specific times.
As these systems collect information about intersections throughout the city, a comprehensive real-time map of city traffic is created. This allows a central control system to find the right timing of lights to help coordinate pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
SCATS has been improved to integrate other advanced technologies, but the system itself has proven itself as a useful tool to prevent pedestrian deaths. This method is being used around the world in large cities, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, Mexico, Kuala Lumpur, Tehran, and Dublin.
The most recent news about this is that PTIPS, a new SCATS feature, is being used in Sydney as a way to prioritize the late buses and make sure that everything is flowing smoothly.
Based on the reports gathered, the use of SCATS has some benefits, and some of which are listed below:
    The total stops decreased by 21%    The travel time reduced by 37%    There has been a 6% decrease in total carbon dioxide emissions    There has been a 5% decrease in total nitric oxide emissions    There has been a 10% drop-off in PM10 emissions
That’s not all, SCATS continue to evolve, and the experts behind this system are looking for ways on how it would be able to meet the growing need in traffic administration while being able to benefit from the recent advancements in traffic technology to enjoy maximum efficiency.There are plenty of notable developments include the following:
    Windows supported- Integration to in-car GPS that allows vehicles to be dispatched around accidents or traffic    Better traffic control algorithms that promote overall efficiency and reduces delays    Integrated functionality made for highway on-ramps to guide traffic even on the highway.
4. Farmington Hills, Michigan
Michigan is one of the leading states implementing advanced technology to improve traffic safety throughout cities. One city, in particular, Farmington Hills, stands out as the leader in the advancement of pedestrian and traffic safety systems.
Utilizing a network of modifiable and “smart” LED lights, city planners are making a connected system that talks to each other and optimize traffic flow. This interface is known as Intellistreets and continues to prove that improved traffic flow can drive economic factors of a city while also increasing safety and efficiencies across the city.

The street lighting operates in a coordinated effect where each pole comes with its very own microprocessor that could work on its own, but could also line around a non-functioning unit. This system of smart LED lights allows authorities to project any message to help guide first responders and keep crowds safe around disaster areas.
These poles also contain sensors and cameras capable of monitoring traffic flow that could tell which lights should brighten or dim down.The street names are visible in LED lights, as well as banners that could be modified to preview anything– this could range from traffic warnings, Amber Alert, directions, or even advertisements. Best of all, you can configure this in real time, and have it ready right away, making it ideal for events.
Despite that the Intellistreets work well with traffic, its primary purpose is energy saving. It was created with pulse width transmission to ensure its energy efficiency when being used. For instance, dimming the lights of the Intellistreets would allow you to save 25% of energy and 25% less heat. Although you wouldn’t experience its benefits right away, after a time, it’s a wonderful investment as compared to a typical traffic light.Using Technology For A Safer Tomorrow
As cities continue to grow, city planners must think of new and innovative ways to improve the safety and efficiency of commuting for pedestrians and drivers. Leveraging emerging technology and integrating these technologies into existing traffic equipment can keep drivers and pedestrians safe. The future of city living and commuting looks bright as authorities continue to implement advanced technology on our city streets!

Data, Cameras, Sensors, and Analytics: Building a Smart Transportation Infrastructure for Tomorrow

hat can we do about our transportation challenges? How do we prepare our transportation infrastructure to support our needs in the future?
These are just some of the questions addressed in a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) titled Beyond Traffic 2045. The report is the result of two years of research and touches on a wide range of trends that will affect the U.S. transportation system in the decades to come, including emerging technologies, population growth, economic opportunities, and freight shipping.
There are many challenges, but cities in the U.S. and around the world are addressing them head-on to reduce congestion, become more efficient, and create value through smart solutions.
Smart cities and smart transportation often go hand in hand.
Urban areas are growing. There will be 70 million more people in the U.S. by 2045, with many residing in urban areas. Traffic congestion, already a problem in big cities, will only get worse. Besides frustrating commuters and visitors, congestion results in high costs. In fact, congestion delays and lost fuel costs $160 billion a year, according to the Beyond Traffic 2045 report.
Traffic management is one key element in reducing congestion. Sensors, cameras, and mobile applications make it possible to develop an integrated traffic management system, like the one used by the state of Utah. Traffic and road conditions can be monitored, pavement repair needs can be identified, signals can be adjusted to improve traffic flow, and travelers can be alerted of backups, delays, and alternate routes via signage and mobile devices.

Parking is another transportation challenge. More cars lead to more parking headaches. Some cities, like the City of San Diego, are implementing smart solutions to help alleviate the problem. The city plans to install 3,200 smart sensors as part of a project to replace 14,000 streetlights with more energy efficient LED lights. The sensors will help create an IoT platform that the city hopes to use to “optimize parking and traffic, enhance pedestrian safety, and track air quality” using real-time data and analytics. Savings from the streetlight replacements alone, which will come from the energy efficiency of the LED lighting as well as smart controls like automated dimming and brightening, are expected to be $2.4 million a year.
Smart solutions, like those at the Living Lab in Dallas, can make cities more attractive to residents and visitors and increase the use of public transportation. More efficient lighting reduces carbon emissions. Sensors can track atmospheric conditions, pollutants, and allergens as well as temperature and humidity. Kiosks can help residents and visitors shop and travel more efficiently with better information about public transit options and schedules. And onboard video can make public transportation options safer and more appealing.
Some cities, like Columbus, OH, see great opportunities in smart transportation solutions. The city won the Smart City Challenge in 2016. In their winning proposal, Columbus officials outlined a plan that would leverage smart solutions to improve economic opportunities and quality of life for all residents.
According to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, “Transportation is not just about roads, transit, and ride sharing. It’s about how people access opportunity. And how they live.”
Smart transportation and smart cities rely on innovative technology and data analytics. Transportation agencies need to record, aggregate, and manage an increasing amount of data from cameras and sensors. From reducing congestion and enhancing safety to supporting new modes of transportation like driverless vehicles, smart solutions are making a difference in cities today and are vital to building the transportation infrastructure we need for tomorrow.
To learn more about how cities are modernizing their approach to transportation surveillance, view the Smart Storage for Smart Cities infographic.

‘Smart’ Cameras Are Now On the Lookout For Distracted Drivers in Australia

“Smart” traffic cameras that use artificial intelligence to try to spot people using cell phones while driving are being rolled out in Australia. The devices take a high-resolution photograph through the front windshield of each passing vehicle, and also capture its license plate. Each photograph is then analyzed by an AI algorithm. If the algorithm decides that the driver is touching a mobile phone, tablet, or another device, it then forwards the photograph to a human reviewer who confirms the violation and issues a citation to the car’s registered owner along with a hefty fine.

This technology represents one of the first significant examples of something that we have warned may become common: the use of smart surveillance cameras to take the place of human police officers in visually enforcing rules and regulations of all kinds. Except these devices won’t just take the place of human officers; they’ll make it possible to greatly increase the scale and pervasiveness of enforcement agents. No jurisdiction is going to station three human police officers on every highway mile and city block to do nothing but look for and issue citations to distracted drivers — but with AI cameras, the equivalent could easily be done.
The age of robot surveillance is around the corner and the watchers will soon far outnumber the watched.

The “mobile phone detection cameras” being deployed in Australia are made by a company called Acusensus, which says that its system can detect texting drivers at night, in all weather conditions, through sun glare, and at high speeds. According to the company, the “system hardware is compact and unobtrusive” — meaning easy to hide — and “detection can be performed in real-time to assist police operations.”
The company is currently pitching its product in the United States and Canada, though I have not heard of a deployment in the United States so far (and the company’s web site does not boast about such a deployment, as we would expect). I am not sure how many other companies sell competing products, though I would expect that any company with expertise in computer vision could develop a product relatively easily.
Certainly, the use of mobile phones by drivers is a very serious problem. As I’ve long pointed out, driving cannot be seen as a purely individualistic activity. What we do with and in our cars affects not just our safety but the safety of other people — and the amount of carnage on our roadways each year is devastating. As a result, driving is already a highly regulated activity. There is also substantial evidence that smartphone use while driving contributes significantly to that human toll.
But the arrival of this kind of AI monitoring technology presents us with larger decisions that we’re going to have to make as a society. Currently, cars are often considered quasi-private spaces, where people do all kinds of things, from eating to applying makeup to changing their clothes to — yes — looking at their cellphones.
We could decide as a society that the dangers of distracted driving are so high that we don’t want the interiors of our cars to be at all private, and declare them fair game for high-resolution photography that can be scrutinized by government officials. We have no independent information about how accurate the Australian systems is, or how others like them will be, though some false positives are inevitable. That means that every driver will be subject to having their photograph randomly scrutinized by the authorities.
We should expect that these devices will be able to pick up other things besides texting. Already the Australian vendor boasts that the system can be set to flag behaviors including “eating, drinking and smoking, adjusting vehicle settings (radio, etc.), and use of mobile and navigation devices in a holder.” Whether the AI can discriminate between a driver drinking a beer and a root beer is unclear, which means that a swig of any beverage behind the wheel could get a photo of you scrutinized by the authorities.
Photographs may expose other things as well, from the presence of guns or drugs to on-the-road sexual activities, as well as private things like reading material, intimate personal effects, and passengers and drivers adjusting their clothes in ways that reveal their bodies at times they reasonably believe they can’t be seen by others. In the absence of tight controls over the handling of photographs, some revealing photographs will inevitably be saved and shared for voyeuristic purposes by those whose job it is to review them.

In Australia, the vendor says that its system shows only images of the drivers, not passengers, to the human reviewers, though we don’t know how reliable the automated redaction of photos is, or whether other vendors would also follow this practice. In media reports (though not on its web site), the company also says it quickly deletes photographs in which the AI finds no sign of a violation. But in New South Wales, 8.5 million photographs were taken in just a six-month period; that kind of photographic database might prove valuable in all kinds of ways that a for-profit company would want to exploit. A system with the power of this one should never be deployed with privacy protections that depend on the promises and voluntary practices of a company; it should be subject to statutory protections.
If we decide as a society to allow these devices to be deployed, we might require that drivers be given notice of their locations so that they can adjust their behavior. Or, we might allow them to be deployed without public notice to better deter dangerous behavior. That would create a “panopticon effect” in which everybody must act as if they are being scrutinized by the authorities at every moment since they never know at what moments they actually will be, creating in drivers “a state of conscious and permanent visibility.”
That would represent a fairly significant change in what it is like to drive in America. If we make a decision as a society to routinely extend the eye of the state into the interior of our vehicles in this way, that is a decision that a) should be known to all, and b) made through transparent democratic processes. The decision should not be made by police departments unilaterally throwing the technology into our public spaces without asking or even telling the communities they serve. That is something we’ve seen happen with too many other technologies, including license plate scanners, aerial surveillance, and face recognition. In cities where our recommended “Community Control Over Police Surveillance” legislation has been enacted, democratic review will be required, but police departments in every city and state should leave this decision to the communities they serve.
The other thing we must consider if we decide to permit this technology to be used is where things will go from there. Already a number of companies are selling in-vehicle “fleet cameras” designed to monitor employees who drive for a living, subjecting those workers to constant robot surveillance and judgment. Personal vehicles, too, are beginning to feature cameras that monitor drivers for distraction or drowsiness.
And AI smart cameras may well end up covering much more mundane behaviors. We could find ourselves fined for such offenses as cutting the edge of a crosswalk or putting materials in the wrong recycling bin. (That latter scenario is not such a stretch; some municipal governments in the United States have already equipped garbage trucks with video cameras that monitor the bins being emptied at each residence to determine if the right materials are coming out of each container, facilitating fines for noncomplying residents.)
Aside from privacy issues, these cameras would also raise other questions:
• Would there be racial bias in their deployment patterns or in the adjudications that human reviewers make of ambiguous photos?
• Would decisions to charge based on photos be made by sworn police officers only? With red-light cameras, we saw deployments that gave vendors a role in deciding guilt and innocence — and running the program in ways that created financial incentives to increase tickets.
• Would the cameras be fair? Unlike a citation issued by a live officer, automated accusations arrive by mail (if they arrive at all) long after the alleged violation. That makes it harder for people to recollect the circumstances of the violation to dispute a charge based on errors or extenuating circumstances.
• As with red-light cameras, there are also fairness questions around the fact that a car’s owner is the one cited when someone else could have been driving it.
Stopping texting drivers to lower traffic deaths is the kind of sympathetic goal that new surveillance technologies are always first deployed to address. But, as we consider going down that road, we need to figure out where we will draw the line against automated surveillance, lest we end up being monitored by armies of digital sticklers scolding, flagging, and fining us at every turn.

WCCTV’s Redeployable Pole camera have been featured in the news, underlining the

WCCTV’s Redeployable Pole camera have been featured in the news, underlining the use of the equipment in law enforcement & community protection applications.

The WCCTV 4G HD Mini Dome was recently featured on Fox 4 News in Grand Prairie as the units are being utilized by the Police Department to assist the law enforcement with community protection applications.
Since February Main Street businesses throughout Grand Prairie are being targeted by a pickup truck driver allegedly firing a BB gun between 0430am and 0740am with the total of cases reaching two dozen.

The Grand Prairie police have released the surveillance video from the WCCTV 4G HD Mini Dome in hope to catch the vandal before it happens again.
The WCCTV’s 4G HD Mini Dome is an all in one rapid deployment pole camera, compromising a PTZ camera, local recording (up to 4TB) and wireless transmission housed in a lightweight and portable unit.
The system also features video analytics functionality including a 3MP day/night camera, and multiple channels output to allow the integration of additional cameras including thermal & LPR cameras.

The Benefits of Mobile Video Surveillance for Job Site Security

Deploying mobile video surveillance cameras for security and asset protection at job sites and compounds, as either an alternative to or compliment for security guarding services, offers multiple benefits.
From significant cost-savings and speed of installation through to quality and convenience, WCCTV’s clients are already benefitting from reliable, unmanned, 24/7 protection of high‑incident areas, transportation routes, construction sites and critical infrastructure
Below WCCTV outlines some of the headline benefits associated with its Rapid Deployment Pole Cameras and Mobile Solar Surveillance Trailers when used for real estate, commercial and residential construction job sites, freight yards, rail yards and remote sites.Cost Effectiveness
The cost of employing security guards can be incredibly expensive for clients seeking a site security solution.

A typical unarmed guard will cost between $12 – $20 per hour depending on state with an armed guard costing $18 -$25 per hour.*
This price does not include external factors such as the requirement for multiple guards to cover sites, the need for training, vetting, rest facilities and vehicles pushing hourly rates ever upwards – even before public holiday premium rates are taken into consideration.
As a cost-effective alternative, many are switching to mobile video surveillance cameras for site security. Systems such as WCCTV’s Mini Dome Solar Trailers are often anywhere up to 87% cheaper than the cost of security guards without compromising on quality or results.
WCCTV provides its rapid deployment solar trailers on a sale or rental basis, meaning clients are able to choose a package that is most financially beneficial for their projects, regardless of the duration.

Quality and Reliability
Video surveillance provides a more accurate and detailed overview of incidents on site than a security guard presence could.
This includes being able to identify intrusions in the lowest lighting conditions. Technology such as infrared, thermal imaging and video analytics allow cameras to see things a human eye would find impossible to detect.

A surveillance camera can also view a much wider area than a security guard, and with the use of multiple passive infrared (PIR) detectors, they can proactively identify any intrusion across a whole site and all points of ingress.
Surveillance cameras are always attentive, they are ready to stop and catch thieves, vandals and other would-be criminals 24/7. They don’t suffer lapses in concentration or attention fatigue. Surveillance cameras remove the element of placing trust in the alertness, motivation and ability of security personnel.   
From a technology perspective, WCCTV Dome Solar Trailers, fitted with WCCTV’s 4G Mini Dome Cameras, represent the next generation of unmanned site security in terms of convenience, flexibility and quality.
The WCCTV Mini Dome Solar Trailer is an autonomously-powered mobile video surveillance system that can be rapidly deployed at practically any location, providing security for remote sites, short-term events or off-grid locations on a temporary or permanent basis.
The trailer is fitted with up to 4 of WCCTV’s 4G Mini Dome pole cameras that have been specifically designed to deliver live and recorded video securely and efficiently via 4G LTE networks.
The units are extremely power efficient, meaning that they can do more with less power.  They don’t rely on gas generators removing the need to refuel or maintain in the field – this also offers a heavy cost reduction which we pass onto our end users.
Live and recorded footage can be accessed via wireless networks including 4G LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing users to remotely view and download the video via mobile devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC) or via an existing video management system.

A Proactive and Visual Deterrent
The ideal result for anyone looking to secure a site and their valuable assets is to prevent intrusions or break-ins before they occur.
The WCCTV Mini Dome Solar Trailer stands 20ft high, providing an unmistakable visual deterrent for a would-be trespasser – they are proven to prevent criminal activity.Risk Mitigation
It’s often suggested that a benefit of using security guards is that, should they discover an intruder onsite, they can intervene and prevent a robbery from occurring.   
However, in most cases, security guards are trained not to approach a potential intruder, for concerns over safety. Options, therefore, become very limited.
Usually, in such instances, security guards ensure their own safety, before calling out Law Enforcement, the same as any normal member of the public.
Using a mobile surveillance camera system such as the WCCTV Mini Dome Solar Trailer could not only ensure a quicker response as they can be streamed to a video monitoring center, it also prevents putting a human into a risky situation where their safety could be threatened.
Rapid deployment and flexibility
It takes just minutes to install the WCCTV Mini Dome Solar Trailer at your locations, and it can easily be moved to new locations as your sites develop or applications change. It is an ideal surveillance solution for locations without any fixed infrastructure for power or video transmission.
They can also be moved around the site as they develop, meaning blind spots can be mitigated and the most appropriate areas of risk remain protected at all times.
Its completely autonomous powering means it can be installed practically anywhere providing immediate security without any infrastructure requirements for power or video transmission.

Additional Benefits
Using a WCCTV mobile video surveillance system provides a number of other onsite benefits. One major benefit is the cameras can be used to provide project overview footage and assist with health and safety applications.
As the cameras provide a 24/7 video feed, it allows clients to:
    Conduct remote site audits
    Review working procedures remotely and/or retrospectively
    Manage site access (vehicles/pedestrians)
    Manage access across site boundaries
    Issue audio alerts
Another added benefit is all WCCTV’s video cameras are time lapse video ready. The system will capture high definition images of your construction, demolition or refit projects which our team will

Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet

I’ll admit it — my brow furrowed after first glimpsing the digital side mirrors adorning the Japanese-market 2019 Lexus ES. Strange, foreign, and unnecessary, the automaker’s new “Digital Outer Mirrors” seem like an answer to a question no one asked, but obviously someone did.
My next thought was how this would meld well with automakers’ infuriating tendency to outfit their concept vehicles with narrow, useless blades jutting from the leading edge of the side glass. Thinking it over, I realized Toyota’s little mirror-scrapping experiment has too many upsides to ignore.
Offered only on the next-gen ES in Japan, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to use the limited roll-out as a litmus test, with the possibility of wider availability in the future.
We’ve already seen dual-function rear-view mirrors already, with drivers allowed to flip between a traditional reflection or a wide-angle video feed of the car’s aft environs. It’s a feature I found more useful than annoying in recent high-end GM vehicles. Still, replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical. It’s yet another feature that compels us to never look outside our vehicles.

But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?
Toyota’s system contains a camera shrouded by a narrow fairing, with the automaker claiming it’s impervious to snow and raindrop accumulation (and quieter at highway speeds). Not restricted by surface area like a mirror, the camera provides a wider field of view, while the screen places the blind-spot monitor more prominently in driver’s field of view. One has to wonder if shoulder checks are on the verge of extinction. More importantly, the camera/screen combo — free of raindrops or some other accumulated muck — can peer through the dark, as well as provide the same type of parking guides as a backup camera.

Despite my rampant traditionalism, it’s the night vision function that won this writer over. Nothing unnerves me more than making a simple right-hander at night, especially from a stop. Why? There’s bike lanes everywhere around Casa Steph, and describing the reasons why would only prompt a rant. Certainly, all road users and pedestrians must remain alert to their surroundings, but some cyclists prefer to go about their lives with the phrase “He’s supposed to see me” floating through their minds. The right-hand turn is often where steel meets bike, especially when the vehicle is accelerating away from a stop.
Please don’t send me hate mail, militant bike lobby (that includes you, sporty guy who almost smacked into the side of a bus after berating me for stopping at a stop sign, then proceeding to make a left-hand turn, signal on, through the intersection you were blowing through at 25 mph.) Oh right, I promised not to rant.
Anyway, your local Lexus dealer won’t have any of these trick camera-mirrors available when the next-gen ES goes on sale this fall, but it might not stay that way. While I harbor concerns about the potentially distracting nature of the screen’s placement, it seems to be the way the industry’s heading.

What are car surround view cameras, and why are they better than they need to be?

Surround view cameras could be the next big thing in automotive safety. They cost more and do more for safety than the long-delayed rear camera that will be required on all 2018 cars. A properly implemented surround view system — with cameras on all four sides — will guard against backover deaths as well as more commonplace damage when you scrape a fender or alloy wheel.

A surround view monitor, or around view monitor system, stitches together a birds-eye view of your car from overhead and shows a moving image on the car’s LCD display, along with parking lot lane markings, curbs, and adjacent cars. The best systems reinforce the visual information with sonar that warns if you’re too close to an obstruction, whether its behind or in front. They payback comes more from the cosmetic savings (fewer crumpled fenders), since the lives saved represent just 0.5% of all highway fatalities.

How surround view cameras work

Infiniti and Nissan pioneered the Around View Monitor (their term) in 2007 on the Infiniti EX35. It’s on nearly a dozen of their vehicles vehicles, including the subcompact Nissan Versa Note and the compact Nissan Rogue SUV (above). One camera is in the middle of the front grille. Two more ultra-wide-angle cameras look down from the side view mirrors along the flanks on the car. A fourth is just above the license plate. Software stitches the four images together and inserts an image of your vehicle in the middle. It’s as if you have your own autonomous drone hovering 50 feet above the sunroof, sending an image to the center stack.

How does it work day to day? As you back down your driveway you can see if your car is centered. If you have your driveway mastered, you may not be familiar with a friend’s driveway, especially one that has a curve, or runs downhill to the street and can’t be seen through your rearview mirror. If you back or nose into a parallel or perpendicular parking space and you don’t have a self-parking system, you can perfectly center your car in the middle of the spot, perhaps the only car at the mall so parked, and stay within the legal 6-12 inches of the curb on-street.

On most cars, the parking view comes on automatically when you put the car in reverse. Hit the camera button and it also shows the view when you’re moving forward. The camera typically only works below 5 to 7 mph.

Bells and whistles

Some vehicles provide multiple views. Nissan, which has been at it longer than anyone, offers four. The Birdseye view is the default and shows all four sides. There are front-only and rear-only views, the rear-only view being much the same as what you’d get if you just had a rear camera. The front-side view, which Nissan offers, shows the view of the right side of the car and projects a dotted line representing the width of the car; use that to keep from scraping your wheels on curbing.
Some automakers offer a wide and an ultra-wide front or rear view, and SUVs may have a close-up rear view that’s straight down, to help in hitching up a trailer. These may be on rear-camera-only cars, too.
BMW (above) has a wide aspect ratio center stack display, as much as 10 inches diagonal, and it can show the surround view and a proximity graphic when it detects objects, with green-yellow-red indicating how close you are to needing bodywork. German automakers, who build their cars for the unlimited-speed Autobahn, also build them for creeping out from alleys and place cameras ahead of the front wheel arches looking out to the side; the companies give a split view on their center stack LCD. Making sense of the view is an acquired skill.
On top of around view, Nissan now offers moving object detection. Sensors watch for objects that move into the path of the car and alert the driver with a chime. It can be a bicycle, pet, or toddler who ran out of the house to say goodbye to mommy.

What could automakers do for an encore?

Especially at the high end, automakers compete to add features and safety, or at least convenience. Land Rover prototyped an X-ray vision system called Transparent Bonnet that “sees” through the hood of the car, which is already big and high, and obstructs vision further when you’re climbing a hill. Most off-road SUVs have downward facing front cameras. Land Rover goes one better with a downward facing camera that appears to show the road directly under a semi-transparent hood as wheel.
High-end SUVs could add a fifth camera at the top of the liftgate for a less distorted rear-facing view. You’d still need a low-mounted camera for close-in work because the slanted backs of most SUVs would be blind for 2 to 5 feet behind the car. The camera could also be an alternative rear view camera, for instance when the back deck is piled high with baggage. Tesla and other automakers are working on digital rear view systems; they could stitch side and rear cameras for a seamless wide view.
Simpler tweaks would make surround vision and rear vision cameras useful. They would benefit from lens cleaners, either a blast of air or a squirt of water. Too often lenses are foggy, dirty, or wet and don’t show a usable image. Backup lights need to distribute more light more evenly; the quality varies greatly.

Why surround vision beats what NHTSA is ordering

About 210 people die each year in backing accidents vs. 33,561 traffic fatalities in 2012 (it doesn’t report 2013 fatalities until just before Thanksgiving this year). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed requiring cars have a backup camera since 2008. The current backup camera mandate finally locks in 2018 as the date when all vehicles sold in the US have a backup camera system. When the widebody Hummer H2 became the first vehicle with a backup cameras in 2004, a camera cost an estimated $150, plus the cost of the display device. By 2018, they’ll be under $50 for the camera, and many cars will have LCD displays for infotainment, so that cost is already embedded in the car’s base price.
NHTSA’s rulemaking will save just a handful of lives. NHTSA estimates the backup systems will reduce the 210 fatalities that by one-third – only – despite an automaker expenditure of $750 million or more each year (15 million vehicles produced times $50 per car). Many motorists won’t look at the displays and others who do won’t see a person because of water, dirt, or sunlight on the camera or the LCD display.
Gentex mirror cameraNHTSA’s mandate will allow small LCDs inset into rear view mirrors. My experience is those LCDs are too small to be useful but it may be how automakers meet the mandate on the cheapest trim lines of each model, the one with wind-up windows and no USB or Bluetooth. The PR image you see here is more legible than you may experience and the child filling that much of the screen is only a few feet away.
The surround view cameras do better than the rear-camera NHTSA mandate in in two ways. First, the side view may pick up children and others who approach the car from the side. Also, the cost of the surround view system — $250 to $1000 — probably pays for itself with fewer fender benders and scraped curbs. Who doesn’t over a decade have at least one low-speed incident? You may not report it because the majority comes out of your pocket via the deductible, but you pay in reduced value at trade-in time.

Putting a price on safety

You can’t put a price on a child’s life, most anyone would say. But the legal system and grieving families will try. Here are some broad figures: If each death pays $1 million, for instance (probably less because of the limits of insurance policies), then the cost to insurers and motorists is $150 million for the 150 lives lost. Meanwhile, the approximately 15 million vehicles built in 2018 with $50 rear cameras will cost an extra $750 million. It takes a decade to turn over the majority of the US vehicle fleet and $7.5 billion will have been invested in cameras. The cost per life saved could would be several million dollars if the cost only considers lives saved; there are also reduced low-speed, rear collision costs that need to be factored in.
The economics look better if you have an around view system because it does at least as good a job helping you spot pedestrians and a superior job preventing crumpled fear and front fenders and bumpers, scraped sides, and damaged alloy wheels. It’s possible that the cost of the surround view system will pay for itself over the decade the vehicle is in service compared to your insurance deductible and higher rates if you report several parking lot accidents.Our recommendation: get surround view and sonar
For the ultimate in safety, look for a car that has surround view, around view, or 360-degree cameas. That includes BMW, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. Test the car early or late in the day when the sun is more likely to strike the display; some will wash out. That’s why you also want a car with rear and hopefully front parking sonar. It picks up cars, rocks, fire hydrants, and people. I believe sonar provides more safety for people and things than a camera, but that’s not what NHTSA is ordering.
(In the future, the cameras could also detect pedestrians. Subaru on cars such as our Editors’ Choice Subaru Forester uses a two-camera system, called EyeSight, to detect and stop for pedestrians in front of the car. They’re more complex, and costly, than today’s rear cameras.)
Start your car search with Nissan and Infiniti, who have the majority of their fleet covered, including the Nissan Nissan Leaf EV, Nissan Murano, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Quest, Nissan Rogue, and Versa Note, and the Infiniti Q50, Infiniti QX80, Infiniti QX 70, Infiniti QX60, and Infiniti QX50.
You may also want a car with self-parking. A car that automatically steers into a parking space typically has sonar for situations where it can’t self-park. The first self-parking cars backed you into a parallel parking space and in more recent models into a perpendicular parking space. Ford just announced the 2015 Ford Edge will also pull you out of the parking space. But self-parking doesn’t work all the time, which is why you want surround view, too. Go with belt and suspenders.

High-tech cameras replace door mirrors on every variant.

The so-called “Side Camera Mirror System” is similar to the virtual door mirrors seen on top-of-the-range versions of Audi’s new E-Tron electric SUV, and uses rear-facing cameras and small screens in the cabin to show drivers the view down the car’s flanks. In the case of the Honda, the cameras sit in housings just below the window line, with their images fed back to six-inch screens at either end of the dashboard.

Honda claims the system will help the car “retain a modern, clean and simple design,” which already includes stepless A-pillars and flush-fitting “pop-out” door handles. The company also says the side cameras will not protrude beyond the wheel arches, unlike conventional door mirrors, which could prevent the car from fitting through gaps or into garages.
And the advantages don’t stop there. Honda also notes that the cameras are more aerodynamic than conventional mirrors, improving the car’s efficiency and range. And there are safety advantages, too, with a choice of “normal” or “wide” views available for the driver to select. The wide view is said to reduce blind spots by half, while even normal view provides a 10-percent improvement.

Honda is also planning to integrate the reversing camera system with the mirrors, projecting guidelines on to the six-inch displays to help drivers maneuver. And to prevent the cameras becoming clouded by water or dirt, they will have specially designed housings that stop water droplets appearing on the lens, which will also feature a water-repellent coating.
In a statement, Honda said: ““As well as improving visibility, these compact cameras reduce aerodynamic drag by around 90 percent compared to conventional door mirrors. The result is an approximate 3.8-percent improvement for the entire vehicle, contributing to the models’ overall efficiency and range. Furthermore, there is a significant reduction of wind noise compared to normal side mirrors at higher speeds.”
The Honda E electric car is expected to hit the roads at some point in 2020, with the full production version’s reveal slated for later this year. However, prospective customers can already make a reservation or register their interest in the new vehicle.


    Side Camera Mirror System delivers design, safety and aerodynamic benefits    Camera images are relayed to interior screens ergonomically positioned for drivers view    Reservations for priority order of the Honda e are now open in selected European Markets
Honda has confirmed that the Side Camera Mirror System seen on the prototype version of the new Honda e urban electric vehicle will be standard when the car enters production. The technology, a first in the compact segment, brings significant benefits for styling, safety, aerodynamics and refinement.
The Side Camera Mirror System replaces conventional side view mirrors with compact cameras providing live images to two six-inch screens inside the vehicle. These screens are integrated at either end of the dashboard, ergonomically positioned to ensure a natural feel and vision for the driver.
The next-generation camera technology helps the car retain a modern, clean and simple design, and complements the stepless A-pillars and flush ‘pop out’ door handles also confirmed for the production version of the Honda e. Unlike conventional side mirrors, the cameras are contained within the width of the car and do not extend beyond the wheel arches.
As a result, not only is visibility improved, but also the compact cameras reduce aerodynamic drag by around 90% compared to conventional door mirrors – an approximate 3.8% improvement for the entire vehicle that benefits the car’s efficiency and range. Furthermore, there is a significant reduction of wind noise that is normally generated by side mirrors at higher speeds.
The camera unit housings are also deliberately shaped to prevent water drops on the lens, with a water-repellent coating on the lens surfaces to deter any other residual water build up.
The optimal positioning of the Side Camera Mirror System cameras delivers a host of safety advantages. The driver can choose between ‘normal view’ and ‘wide view’ via the vehicle settings, extending the field of vision further than with conventional side mirrors and reducing blind spots by around 10% in normal view and approximately 50% in wide view. Further benefits are experienced when reverse gear is selected, guidelines appear on the side view screens in addition to an enhanced camera angle, expanding visibility.
Brightness levels on the interior displays are automatically adjusted based on the prevailing light conditions. Extensive testing and development have been undertaken to ensure the Side Camera Mirror System delivers superior visibility in poor weather, low-light and night-time conditions with no dazzle or glare. This provides drivers with greater clarity and awareness of surrounding objects than conventional side view mirrors in all conditions.
Honda’s new compact electric car is a bold step for the brand in terms of design and technology, and forms part of the brand’s strategy to feature electrified technology in all cars it sells in Europe by 2025. It will feature a competitive range of over 200km, ‘fast charge’ functionality providing 80% range in just 30 minutes.
Inside, the spacious, contemporary interior creates a comfortable lounge-like feel with an intuitive and customisable dual touch-screen interface to keep passengers engaged with their connected lifestyles. The car’s sporty rear-wheel drive set up, advanced electric powertrain and high-performance battery, delivers a fun, dynamic driving experience.
The production version of the Honda e will be unveiled later this year and customers can make a reservation for priority ordering online in UK, Germany, France and Norway or register their interest in other European markets on the Honda national websites.

Best dash cam 2019: 8 car-ready cameras for peace of mind

Picking up one of the best dash cams isn’t merely for capturing footage of an asteroid strike or an escaped herd of cows causing havoc on the M4 – the imagery captured by these diminutive devices can be essential in the unfortunate event of an insurance claim and can even help lower premiums.
There is an enormous amount of choice currently on the market and finding the best dash cam for your needs can seem exhausting, with myriad features and price points making the decision to splash the budget feel pointless when there are cheaper options that appear to do exactly the same thing.

Nextbase 522GW bundle: £219.99 £159.99 at the top-rated Nextbase 522GW dash cam with rear camera and you’ll also bag yourself a 32GB memory card and a carry case, saving £60 in the process. It will ensure your car is well covered in the event of an accident or incident on the road.

But the reality is, the more you spend on a top quality dash cam, the more built-in features you receive. These include auto record and save functionality, a CCTV mode when the vehicle is parked, and even the ability to control other smart devices via Amazon Alexa skills.
We’ve sifted through a number of the best performing dash cams on the market to decide which brands really offer the best of the best, covering a number of price points and built-in features that should appease an array of budgets and requirements ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Best dash cam 2019 at a glance:

    Nextbase 522GW   

 Garmin Dash Cam 66W    

Kenwood DRV-830   

 Thinkware TW-F770   

 BlackVue DR900S-2CH   

 Vantrue N2 Pro  

  Cobra CDR 840  

  YI Smart Dash Camera

    Don’t get lost again: here are the best sat navs of 2019

The tech is already available on a few models in foreign markets.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes a step into the motoring future by announcing a test of how side-mounted cameras could replace conventional mirrors. The agency specifically wants to know how the tech affects driving behavior and lane changes, according to Reuters.
Sideview camera systems are already available on a few models in Europe in Japan, but regulations currently keep the tech off of American roads. NHTSA doesn’t yet offer a time frame for when the agency could modify the rules to allow them in the U.S.

The Lexus ES is among the models available with side-view cameras outside of the U.S. The company’s solution puts five-inch screens for displaying the outward view on each side of the cabin. The cameras’ view adapts to the driver, including zooming out during lane changes. The system also brightens the exterior image during night driving for better visibility.