I'm a bit of a tech-head, ok maybe that's a bit of an understatement. I got
my first computer in 1982 and worked in the IT field professionally in
the '90s when the Internet was really getting started. I worked for the big companies like AT&T, IBM, Digital, Honeywell, etc. Around about
2000 I got out because it just got too competitive and everyone was just all about the certificates and the paper you carried. I went
full-time EMS and the eventually Firefighting in 2006. I retired in 2010. Though I still hang onto my tech roots and tinker prolifically.
With the rise of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc and just the craziness of drivers lately I began looking into DashCams.
For one, it's a neat little technical project. Secondly, it provides piece of mind if you should get into or even witness
an accident or other event on the road. Thirdly, it's just kind of a cool thing to do.
I was looking at several options on Amazon ranging from $50 on up to $200.
Three of the top runners were:
REXING V2 PRO Full HD Dual Camera 2.7” LCD Screen | Dash and Inside Cabin Infrared Night Vision
TOGUARD Dual Dash Cam with IR Night Vision, FHD 1080P Front and 720P Inside Cabin Dual Lens Car Dash Camera with 1.5 inch LCD Display
Nexar Beam GPS | Full HD 1080p Dash Cam | 2021 Model
All three had their pros and cons. One of the things I didn't like about the turn-key devices was the reliance on an SD-Card or the need to pay
for a separate cloud storage service. Plus all the ones I was looking at with the features I wanted at a price I was willing to pay seemed really big and unwieldy. One of my pet peeves is things hanging from the rear view mirror. I can't stand that! And the screens on the turn-key devices were like 1 or 2 inches I began looking at different downloadable apps, Nexar, DriveRecorder, AutoGuard Dash Cam - Blackbox,
AutoBoy BlackBox and DailyRoads Voyager.
Again, each one had their pros and cons. I finally settled on DailyRoads Voyager. I liked its interface, options, stability and of course price ($4.99USD).
I downloaded DailyRoads Voyager Pro and began setting it up on a Raspberry Pi 4B+ 8GB with with an IR camera and a 7" TouchScreen. I ran Lineage OS 17.1 but Android really isn't targeted for the Pi and was just to unstable and ran hot. It just ended up too troublesome to cobble together.
Not to mention the case and mount I would have had to design and print for it and the space it would have taken up.
Though the 7" touch screen would have been nice.
In the end I setup an old phone, my wife's Samsung Galaxy Note 10 that was having issues sending and receiving calls/texts so it was retired
for a new Motorola One 5G. Her old Note 10 worked out the best. No need for a sim card or data plan either. It uses the WiFi from my
Harmon Spark (from AT&T ) OBD-II port Smart Car device. Using the phone also allows me to use other apps too, like Google Maps
or the app to control my HAM Radio. A little more versatility. You know how I said that I like to tinker. The DailyRoads app allows
me to upload to my GoogleDrive or Dropbox. Though I do wish I could upload to a private server, like my own FTP box in my workshop
where I have 12TB of storage versus the 2.5TB on Drobbox or the 1TB on Google. The phone mount sits pretty low so it is out of
my "drive" vision but still captures the road. And the screens on the turn-key devices were like 1 or 2 inches.
With the Galaxy Note 10 I've got like a 6x2.5 inch screen! in a 1/4" thin package! And what a 10 hour battery backup.
Then I have my Samsung Galaxy S7 10" tablet on a flexible arm mount (uses a seat bolt from the passenger seat) for my GPS and
when ever I need internet access to looks things up. Basically anything I would need a PC for, can even connect into my home PC's
and remotely control them as if I was at my desk. comes in handy when you're somewhere official, like the VA, DMV, a car dealership,
and need to retrieve an important document. I printed a small air vent bracket for my Google Pixel 4 XL phone to use the radio
app that controls my HAM radio. (Vero VRN7500)
Google made changes to their map app. It used to be where you can tap an icon and it would pull up the GPS that follows your progress
and after being stationary for a set period of time it would reset to just the default map. Then you could tap on "Start Driving"
and it would go back to tracking you again. BUT, they removed the "Start Driving" option. Now you have to CLOSE the app
and RESTART it! Having the map app and the radio app on the tablet, I had to split the screen between the two apps. Before with
the "Start Driving" option it was no big deal, but having to restart maps all the time, I have to constantly resplit the screen
which can be a pain in the ass to constantly do. Hence why I'm thinking of putting the HAM app on my phone and putting
it on an air vent. If any calls come through they automatically go through my truck's radio via Bluetooth and I can make calls
by hitting a button on the steering wheel and telling the truck to call so and so or tell Google assistant to send a text message
all by voice. So no need to pick up the phone and use my hands. Only time I have to use my hands is to hit the connect/disconnect,
volume up/down buttons on the steering wheel. No need to take my eyes off the road. This way I also stay with the "Distracted/No Phone/Texting"
laws that are being passed all over. The only thing I have to manually touch is the HAM radio mic and those are exempt from those laws.
All in all it's a pretty neat setup. And really doesn't take up much room. The tablet takes up the most space, used to use a cup-holder mount but
it broke when I was trying adjust it, then my folks had my old seat bracket mount from the Kia Sorento. So now I have full use of both of my cup-holders! hehehe. I used Daily Roads Pro for a few days and it worked quite well. The videos it recorded were good quality even "dumbed" down to 720p to save
space, the video files weren't very large (average 300mb), the recordings didn't skip or miss much. When I did record audio the audio was clear
and loud. The only shortcoming I really couldn't get around was the fact that the videos weren't automatically overlaid with GPS data and
speed data. You have to pay extra for access to a separate server to add that data to each video after the fact. The reason was given was that
Android did not allow real time overlays being written to the files. *shrug* The cost was minimal, $4.99 a month for unlimited videos or something
like that. But having to do it to EACH video one by one could get tedious. Having the videos automatically uploaded to Dropbox od Google Drive was
a nice feature. Ate up mobile data and battery life though.
To get around the overlay problem I tried using a HUD app on another spare phone. For this I found Navier HUD 3. It kind of worked and kind of
didn't. The app was really configurable, lots of data displays (GPS,OBD-II, Map) but the image "projected" to the windshield suffered from
a "double image" effect and couldn't be seen at all during the day. In the end I decided on a turnkey solution, going with the Rove R2-4K Dash Cam. At just under $80 it was a pretty good deal. It has a small screen, 2.4 inches, so you do notice the difference from the 6 inch Note 10 screen. It is dependent on a Class 10 MicroSD card for storage so no automatic uploads to the cloud or server storage. Moving the videos has to been done either via the Rove app or via good ol' sneaker net. The videos, dumbed down to 720p, are good and clear. No skips, fluid movement. Audio is clear too when enabled.
The main selling pint was the overlaid GPS/Speed data on the video. The Rove does have a battery so it does do parking
monitoring and whatever else you would need a battery for. The kit comes with a long USB cable and a short USB cable, a cigarette plug,
suction mount, sticky tape mount, a few cable clips and a push tool to push the cable into crevices. I mounted the cam just to the side and
slightly behind my rearview mirror. High enough to be out of sight, but the screen is still visible. This required me using the sticky tape mount
since on my windshield around my rear view mirror is textured. The suction mount wouldn't grab. I ran the long USB cable cable along the top of the windshield, down the passenger side and under the glove box to the cigarette lighter USB outlet.
So far so good! As far as the HUD goes, I'm going to setup the Note 10 with Navier 3 and pair it with a Innova Quicklink OBDII Wireless Adapter and pull my engine data , speed, nav history and a moving map. I already tried it with a cheap OBD-II Bluetooth adapter ($9.99) but the results were
abysmal. None of my devices would stay connected to it for more that a new minutes. Hopefully stepping up to a bit more expensive one
will work out better.
Quick Update: It turned out not to be the Bluetooth OBD-II adapter that was the culprit but the Y-Cable that was causing the
connection failure of the HUD program. Once I directly connected the adapter to the port everything connected like it
should. Navier 3 is giving me all my stats in real time and my HUD and moving map is performing great! I no longer have the
Harmon Spark connected so there is no WiFi connection, though the Rove doesn't utilize WiFi and the rest of my devices have
their own data connection. The one thing I do lose is tracking of my vehicle when it is out and about. So I will probably look for
a GPS tracking solution that doesn't use the OBD-II port that I can squirrel away in the truck. There are a few solutions out there.