Route One – The UK’s market-leading coach and bus industry magazine have been extensively testing the RoadHawk DC-1 forward facing camera. Their latest issue features a double page spread review of RoadHawk black box camera systems and the advantages for the bus and coach industry. Here’s what Route One had to say….
In an ideal world, you’d have all your vehicles fitted with some form of recording equipment to protect you, and your drivers, in an accident. As Mel Holley discovers, cost is no longer a stumbling block for a good solution. It wasn’t many years ago that fitting CCTV to a coach or bus was a newsworthy story. Now, it’s relatively commonplace. At the top end, you can have internal and external cameras covering every possible zone, and linked with automatic downloads. However, it comes at a price. If you’re one of the majority of operators who run fewer than 10 vehicles on a mix of work, and change them fairly often, then you may consider there’s nothing for you. But not any more. RoadHawk UK is offering a number of alternatives. All are cost-effective and, importantly, are more than simply a forward facing camera. In short, RoadHawk is an in-vehicle ‘black box’ that requires no driver intervention, and has the benefit of being portable. With a starting price of £199 (inc VAT and postage) for the complete in-vehicle forward facing DC-1 – and no subscription or set-up fees – it looks like a good deal.
To prove whether the system really delivers what it promises, we fitted a DC-1 forward facing camera to a vehicle for a long-term trial, lasting nearly six months. RoadHawk recommends fitting the camera behind the rear view/interior mirror, to provide the best view, and not obscure the driver’s vision. Even in a smaller vehicle, this proved possible without difficultly. The unit (with a two-year warranty) is compact at 25mm high, 72mm deep and 98mm wide.
Operation is simple, in that there’s nothing to do as it’s automatic. The unit powers up when the ignition is turned on, and when it gets a GPS signal, it ‘chimes’ a confirmation tone. When the ignition is turned off, the unit powers down and saves the last recording. The recording is continuous (saved as MPEG-4 files) and a small-inbuilt microphone will pick up things such as the horn being sounded. The ‘black box’ also records the GPS location (from which speed and direction is calculated), and G-Force. Discreet LEDs confirm that recording is happening. If there is an ‘extreme’ G-Force event, the unit will ‘tag’ it, and mark the recording 10 seconds either side of the ‘event’ – giving a 20-second sequence that’s later easily identified from the rest of the continuous footage. Also, the driver can press a button on the back of the unit to create an ‘event tag’, such as for a near miss, as it aids finding the incident later. All data is on a removable SDHC Card. Once the card is full, it writes over the oldest data first.
The forward facing camera system includes RoadHawk’s PC Viewer Manager. Once loaded, it’s simply a matter of popping your SD card into the machine. It’s an easy to use programme. You can select to view all the files, or just ‘events’. The GPS data automatically links with Google maps to show the vehicle’s location as it moves. Google’s standard options of map, satellite or combined views are available. Along the bottom, a coloured graph indicates the G-Force (up, down and sideways) recorded.
Crucially, it’s about the image quality, and we were pleasantly surprised at how good it is. The camera records at 640×480 resolution, with 30 frames-per-second during the day, and 20 fps at night. We tried all road conditions from snow, to fog, rain, night (lit and unlit roads) and the ultimate test, directly into the low winter sun. In all our tests, the images recorded were very good quality, and even in high contrast situations or the dark, the images were clear and most definitely usable. We were especially impressed with how the automatic exposure quickly handled changes of light (such as going under bridges, or from areas of deep shadow to sunlight). And, our killer test of driving into the winter sun was passed with flying colours.
It may be small, it may be cost-effective, but it’s no slouch. This a low-cost, no-subscription product. The GPS works anywhere in the world, it doesn’t need driver intervention and is easy to fit and use. Better still, there are clear benefits that have been recognised by insurers. Equity Red Star will provide up to a 10% discount on their fleet policies for companies with RoadHawk cameras in their vehicles. In turn, RoadHawk is offering a 10% discount on its cameras for any operators taking out a policy with Equity Red Star. PCV insurance specialists Towergate Insurance also endorses the RoadHawk DC-1, offering discounts to operators looking to insure their small fleet (1-5) vehicles.
Whether it’s a genuine accident, an accusation of bad driving, or a crash-for-cash scam, then a forward-facing camera can ensure that you do not become a victim of unlawful activities due to an individual’s greed for illegal financial gain or stupidity. Installing a forward-facing video camera will ensure these drivers cannot harm your good standing with your insurer, the police, or Traffic Commissioner. The two most common crash-for-cash scams are that the fraudulent driver sets up a scenario that requires them to slam on their brakes directly in front of you, so you hit them, to make an insurance claim. Other times, a driver reverses into you but claims you drove into the back of them. Video evidence will clearly document what really happened and the other party may also be charged for a number of offences, including fraud. When a genuine accident occurs it is one party’s version of events against another. No-one can argue with video footage and supporting data (i.e. time and location) that clearly shows the sequence of events. Driver stupidity is a major cause of many road incidents. Any collision where no witnesses are present to give a sufficient description of what happened is likely to result in a 50/50 outcome. However, the police and your insurance company cannot dispute your testimony given the hard evidence stored on your forward-facing camera.
This is an excellent product, and ideal for operators who want the benefits of a camera system without the outlay. But what it offers – in terms of the ‘black box’ data and automatic Google maps link – means that it’s more than just a forward facing camera. And, with the insurance discounts, we can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to fit this system. At the price, it’s a steal.
RoadHawk 01208 269 159 firstname.lastname@example.org
For the full Route One review and all the latest news from the bus and coach industry check out Route One’s website