Dashcams are becoming a must-have accessory for drivers today. At the very least, it’s a front-facing camera with a wide field of view that can record the road ahead through the car’s windshield, and can have three main benefits.
In the event of a serious accident, dash cams can establish the sequence of events and record exactly what happened to establish liability. In turn, this can also help determine fault for insurance purposes – or if the footage can be accessed remotely, provide proof that the car has been stolen in the event of a theft.
Finally, dash cams can also be a unique way to record special drives or road trips, with many models offering a time-lapse recording mode that’s perfect for this purpose.
Recently, some automakers have offered vehicles with built-in dash cam functionality, often by reusing the vehicle’s onboard cameras that are typically used for ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) and other automated and active driving safety features.
The main benefit of this built-in system is seamless integration with the rest of the car, without the need for any unsightly dangling wires, as is the case with aftermarket DIY installations.
Let’s take a look at locally available vehicles with dash cam functionality. Please note that this story does not include OEM-branded dashcam accessories that may be installed after purchase by a dealer, but are often manufactured under license by a third party.
Brands that offer built-in dash camera functionality overseas but not domestically, such as Genesis in Korea, are also excluded.
Other brands that previously offered dashcam functionality have also been excluded from this story, such as Citroën with the ConnectedCAM option on the C3. This feature was discontinued in 2019.
Of the manufacturers listed here, Tesla offers arguably the most advanced built-in dash camera functionality across the range, including the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, as well as the latest iterations of the larger Tesla Model S sedan and Model X SUV.
Unlike most dual-channel aftermarket solutions that may include front- and rear-facing cameras, the Tesla is capable of recording from both front and rear cameras, as well as two front wing-mounted cameras under the left and right side mirrors.
If the dashcam functionality is enabled, the car automatically saves the last 10 minutes of footage in the event of an accident; this can also be saved manually, or if a horn is used.
Vehicles manufactured after 2020 also come with a pre-formatted 128GB USB stick that can be used to store dash cam footage; if the car is parked, dashcam footage can also be viewed on the central touchscreen.
In addition to standard dashcam functionality, Tesla offers a Sentry Mode feature. If this feature is enabled, the car’s cameras and other sensors stay on, and will automatically detect and record suspicious behavior around the vehicle, such as people approaching or touching the car.
Any activity is recorded and the car notifies any potential offenders on the touchscreen and by turning on the headlights and activating the in-car alarm if necessary.
Recently, a software update allowed Tesla owners to remotely view a live stream of their car’s surroundings when Sentry Mode is activated via the Tesla mobile app, if they have also subscribed to Premium Connectivity.
BMW offers its Drive Recorder system on various models equipped with Operating System 7 or later (also known as iDrive 7.0) when selected with the surround view camera package, if manufactured after July 2019.
Similarly to the Tesla, the BMW Drive Recorder can record from up to four cameras simultaneously. If the car detects a collision, the Drive Recorder system gives the user the option to automatically save up to 20 seconds of footage before and after the event to onboard storage (which can be exported to a USB stick).
The driver can also choose to manually record up to 40 seconds of footage via the iDrive system or by long pressing the panoramic display button.
If your BMW uses the latest Operating System 8 (as found on the latest iX and 3 Series, among other models), the recording window is expanded to 30 seconds before and after the crash.
Operating System 8 also introduces a new Sentry Mode-style anti-theft feature, where the system can automatically activate and save up to eight recordings to on-board storage, if the car’s anti-theft alarm is triggered.
Some models such as the iX are also equipped with an internal camera, which will also activate and record in the event of attempted theft.
Certain Mercedes-Benz models equipped with the marque’s MBUX infotainment system are now also available with dash cam functionality, from entry-level modes like the A-Class to SUVs like the GLE.
Mercedes-Benz systems are not as sophisticated as BMW and Tesla. Unlike the BMW, recordings cannot initially be saved to onboard storage, instead a USB stick or storage device must be connected.
Additionally, the Mercedes-Benz system can only record footage from its front camera.
Mercedes-Benz offers a ‘loop recording’ feature with its dash cam that limits the video length to only the available storage space, before overwriting if the storage becomes full. Videos are saved as separate two-minute files before being overwritten, in MP4 format.
The BYD Atto 3, along with the MG ZS EV, is one of the cheapest electric vehicles on sale today in Australia.
It includes some features not often found on cars two or three times the price, one of which is a dash cam.
Like Mercedes-Benz, BYD appears to only use the front-facing camera to record dash cam footage, rather than the rear and side facing simultaneously.
This feature is officially known as the vehicle trip data recorder, according to the BYD Atto 3 Owner’s Manual.
To use it, drivers must insert a properly formatted SD card into the center console, and can then take photos or record videos from the forward-facing camera via the Driving Recorder app.
It is still unclear from the Owner’s Manual what the maximum recording length of each video is. However, BYD enables loop recording, along with a locking function where the recorded video will not be overwritten even if the SD card is full.