When the biggest meteor to hit the earth in over 100 years exploded in the skies over Central Russia on February 15, over a dozen people captured the resulting meteorite shower on their car-mounted “dash cams,” many uploading extraordinary videos to the Internet within minutes.
What are the odds of capturing such an unlikely event? It turns out it’s not really such a long shot in Russia, where dash cams are all the rage. But the reasons behind their popularity are alarming.
As explained by Reuters, “The small video cameras, fixed to the dashboard or rear view mirror of a car to film oncoming traffic and the road ahead, are immensely popular in Russia because of…fears about the corruption, violence and insurance fraud schemes that can make driving in the country a nightmare.”
According to Wired, “The sheer size of the country, combined with lax—and often corrupt—law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists.”
Technology to the rescue. Dash cams, which are constantly recording to flash storage, erasing and recording again, are relatively inexpensive ($50 to $200) and easy to install. They’ve also spawned an online phenomenon.
“Dash cams don’t just capture accidents the owner gets into, but anything that happens on the road.” A recent report on Geek.com notes, “When drivers get something major on film, they usually upload it to YouTube or a similar site…Semi trucks flattening cars, pedestrians hit by cars, and all manner of other car-to-car collisions end up online thanks to dash cams.”
MSN.com reports that in the U.S., police have been using dash cams for decades, but now the technology has begun to catch on among civilians, including parents who buy them as a condition for letting a teen have access to a car. “The dash cams join a widening array of technology—such as the onboard data recorders installed in all new cars and the pay-as-you-drive devices…that can document your behind-the-wheel behavior."
Just how popular are they in the U.S.? Last November, USA Today pointed to GoPro as the market leader in the “action camera” category. Its top-of-the-line camera, priced at $399, shoots hi-def video at 1080p and features built-in Wi-Fi for pairing with an Apple or Android mobile device. Top competitors include Contour (now offering cameras with built-in Bluetooth) and Sony. All three companies now offer a mobile app for operating the cameras remotely.
In addition to being used in cars, these sleek and affordable cameras are finding their way onto bike helmets, surfboards, planes and sky divers, spawning a plethora of extreme sports videos on video sharing sites like YouTube. But Russia will likely hold the record for the most extreme cosmic event to be captured on dash cam for many years to come.
Editor’s Note: Qualcomm Atheros Inc. is a component supplier for GoPro.
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