Watch any of those Caught on Tape!-type shows, and you’ll know just how valuable an in-car “black box” camera can be. Not only does it provide a visual record of who was at fault in an accident, but you can also use it to record any other questionable activity that takes place in front of your car. While most of the “sensational” footage comes from cameras in police cars, civilian versions such as the CarCam Voyager and the envisionCAM are available for us regular folk. You can go ahead and pay US$100 to $575 for one of those ... or you can shell out 99 cents for the iCar Black Box iPhone app.
You could also, of course, just mount your iPhone on your windshield and roll its video camera every time you hit the road. For the extra dollar, however, iCar offers a few useful extra features.
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For one thing, it uses the phone’s GPS to keep a constant record of your speed – very important if a dispute arises as to who was to blame for an accident. It also utilizes the GPS, clock and date functions to create a map that displays where and when an accident took place.
Additionally, it only saves footage when instructed to do so, so you’re not left with hours of images to sift through. It uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect when an accident has (presumably) taken place, and then verbally asks if you wish to save. If you press OK on the screen, it then retroactively saves the footage leading up to the accident. Should a Bigfoot cross the road in front of you, or something else happens that you think should be saved for posterity, you can also start recording at any time by touching the Emergency Record icon.
In the event of an accident, it will ask if you wish to autodial 911, or a pre-assigned emergency contact number – a feature shared by the Tiwi teen driver monitoring system. Admittedly, you could do that part without the app, although every little bit of offered assistance helps in the aftermath of an accident.
It does look like the whole setup might be a little awkward – the phone and mount (which you would have to buy if you didn’t already possess) take up some prime road-viewing real estate, and the cords dangling from either end of the phone could be a nuisance.
The iCar Black Box iPhone app is available on iTunes.