After a couple of pandemic-related hiatus years, Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is back, and from all the live blogs and updates we’re seeing, CES 2023 is another bumper year with exciting new dash cams like the BlackVue DR970X-2CH LTE, the Garmin LTE, and Amazon's new Ring Car Cam.
Ring Car Cam - What We Know and Think Of This New Dash Cam
What is the Ring Car Cam?
The Ring Car Cam is Amazon’s take on the dash cam as an extension of the company’s home cameras and surveillance devices. It is a dual-channel (dual-facing front and interior) dash cam system built to monitor what’s happening inside and outside your vehicle. It comes with some of the Ring features you’d find in their home security cameras.
In the promotional video, Ring portrays a woman getting a notification on her Ring app. She opens the camera and sees a thief. She yells at him and he runs.
Ring Car Cam as a Dash Cam: Image Quality
The Car Cam is equipped with two 1080p Full HD cameras to capture the action inside your car and out in front and inside the car. Night Vision? The Ring Car Cam has it. Ring claims that the Car Cam can get detailed Full HD footage from dim parking garages to nights in the driveway if anyone tries anything under darkness. It could be a good deal if Ring used a good base, such as the Sony STARVIS or Omnivision sensors. However, based on the size of the unit, it appears that it is not one of the larger sensors available - which reminds us of the Owlcam - expensive pricetag but subpar video quality.
The Ring Car Cam comes with a physical shutter that you can manually flip to cover the interior camera and microphone.
Traffic Stop and Other Ring Car Cam Recording Modes
While the Ring Car Cam sits on your dashboard like a dash cam, it’s more accurate to call it a car security camera. The Car Cam offers a few recording modes.
Voice-controlled “Traffic Stop” recording. All you have to say is "Alexa record," and the camera will record for up to 20 minutes, even if you are parked with the car turned off. This feature is designed to help you capture crucial moments, like an accident and car-side conversations with law enforcement.
Continuous recording, like a regular dash cam
Parking protection mode, which then recordings are triggered by motion and impact. For instance, if someone breaks into your car, the Ring app gives you a motion alert and connects you to your Car Cam. You can then see and talk to the persons inside your car like you would with the Ring Door Bell.
Regardless of your recording mode, your footage is stored locally and will be accessible when the camera is connected to WiFi, such as when you’re parked in your driveway or connected through the phone’s hotspot. The Car Cam can store up to seven hours of camera footage - note that there is no loop recording.
If you want to be able to store more, you will need to subscribe to Ring Protect Go service, a $6-per-month or $60-per-year plan that is separate from the Ring home plans. With the Protect Go plan, your footage will be uploaded to the cloud and stored for up to 180 days. In other words, you can use the Ring Car Cam without the Protect Go service, but you are limited to the storage space inside the Ring Cam - better make it a habit to start clearing out old footage more regularly. You also lose out on Cloud storage and all the other great Ring features.
What You Get from the Ring Protect Go Service
With an optional $6/mo Ring Protect Go service, you get features like real-time alerts, live view, cloud storage, LTE connectivity, and more. You can see what your Car Cam sees and speak to anyone inside the vehicle from anywhere when your car is away from home.
With Car Cam, you can check in on your car and get real-time video and audio with the Live View button. You can see live video when your car is away from your home Wi-Fi.
With its GPS feature, users can see the car’s location to confirm it’s safe whenever it’s parked - whether at home or in the parking lot.
These features sound familiar? Yes - BlackVue Cloud! Live View, real-time GPS tracking, 2-way conversation, Cloud upload and storage and event notifications are all features offered by the BlackVue Cloud service.
Installing the Ring Car Cam’s
The Car Cam plugs into your car’s OBD-II port for power and connects to the windshield via a sticker.
Unlike most dash cams that mount to your windshield, the Ring Car Cam is attached to an arm that extends up from your dash, with the base of the arm wedged between your windshield and dash. It is quite small but is not very discreet in terms of placement which can be a distraction to the driver. The Car Cam is mounted far from the windshield - therefore, the quality of the footage may not be as excellent compared to a properly mounted dash cam behind the rearview mirror.
For safety, Ring recommends only using the Car Cam in vehicles where the OBD-II port is located to the left side of the steering wheel.
One thing to note, though, the Ring Car Cam is not suitable for every car. For instance, your car must be new enough to have an OBD-II port, and the port must be accessible. Some Teslas, for example, are incompatible from both OBD-II port and cable management standpoints.
Ring has a list of cars not compatible with the Car Cam on their website and on the list are many popular models, like the Acura MDX. Honda Insight, Infinity QX60, Buick Regal, Tesla models Y and 3, Honda CRV, Ford Explorer, various Mercedes models, and even the Porsche 911, and much more.
Even if your car supports the Ring Car Cam, if you're already using the OBD port for an insurance dongle or a diagnostic scan tool, you won't be able to use the Car Cam. We reached out to Ring's support center and they confirmed that OBD is the only power option and they don't see Ring adding in other power options in the near future due to limitations of the design, etc. We further asked about the Car Cam's power consumption because if your car battery is not in pristine condition, you might run into over drainage issues (something that the dedicated battery pack could easily prevent). Ring support did reassured that the Car Cam comes with built-in voltage monitoring and it doesn't consume a lot of power.
More like a Ring Car Alarm System
While the Ring Car Cam functions almost like a traditional dash cam, the proper way to use it is as a car security camera.
Say you’re parked at night and someone breaks into your car. The Ring app gives you a motion alert and connects you to the camera so you can see and talk to the persons inside your car, like you would with the Ring Door Bell.
In other words, the Car Cam protects your car in the driveway just like what Ring did to the front door. You can even link it with your other Ring home cameras to create an all-around security system so that if someone triggered your Car Cam, you can also have the floodlight camera on top of your garage go off - and it’s all managed via the Ring app.
Data Collection and Privacy Worry
A number of serious concerns have been raised about privacy issues in general, as well as the amount of personal data collected by Amazon through Ring cameras, Blink, Alexa, and other products. Data collection is a critical component of Amazon's business model and is built into nearly all of its product concepts.
Whether you like it or not, Amazon is known to have provided videos to law enforcement without a warrant or owner’s consent. But it is more concerning because OBD devices can collect all sorts of data on the car, from tire pressure to VIM and other identifying information. In the case of cars, insurance agencies, advertisers, manufacturers, and governments all have an interest in the data contained in the OBD. For example, some insurance companies have used information from OBD to measure the driving distance to determine discounts for drivers with low mileage. Governments can monitor and regulate traffic and gas emissions with the information.
What we think
Things about the Ring Car Cam that didn’t make sense to us:
- You must purchase the Ring Protect Go subscription to download your driving footage.
- There is no removable onboard storage for continuous recording.
- The Car Cam is a dual-channel Full HD camera, significantly more expensive than many dash cams with similar specs.
- There is no way to power the Car Cam other than the OBD-II power cable. You can’t plug it into your car’s 12V cigarette lighter socket, nor can you use the Car Cam with a dedicated battery pack.
- Given that both Alexa and Ring are Amazon-owned, we were hoping for more Alexa voice-command functionality.
Things that we thought were cool about the Ring Car Cam
The additional Ring features make the Ring Car Cam the perfect solution for those who already have the Ring home cameras and is looking for ways to extend the protection set up to the driveway, car, and beyond.
And not to mention, with the launch of another dash cam with built-in LTE, perhaps BlackVue will re-consider the pricing of its new lineup of LTE dash cams and their SIM plans.
The Ring Car Cam is not designed to be a dash cam, but more like an extended camera for Ring home camera system. Without removable storage onboard, it makes is impossible to capture long drives. Everything is stored in the camera and accessible only through the Ring app, and it will cost you a subscription if you want to download that video.
If you are looking for an LTE-connected dash cam that allows you to access your footage anytime, anywhere via the Cloud, the BlackVue DR750X-2CH LTE Plus is hands down a better choice:
✅ built-in LTE connectivity
✅ freedom to use any LTE and SIM service provider
✅ multiple ways to power the dash cam (in fact, BlackVue does not offer any OBD-II power solutions)
✅ removable storage (supports up to 256GB microSD card)
✅ additional parking recording modes to better suit different parking needs and environments