Ring Car Cam hands-on: Amazon’s video security ecosystem hits America’s freeways

aAmazon Evolution From Ubiquitous shopping platform to Observation platform everywhere continues its march, having greatly expanded its line of Ring security camera systems in recent years. At present, the company offers video doorbells, outdoor cameras, indoor cameras, flying cameraslighting systems, alarm systems and vehicle security packages – the latter being the reason we are here today. I put a Ring camera in my car.

This does not mean that the Ring Car Camera is a poorly designed or manufactured product – far from it! the $250 car camera It features a dual interface (pointing the way and in the cabin), infrared-capable 1080p imaging sensors, optional LTE connectivity, Alexa-driven voice commands, and remote vehicle monitoring through the Ring mobile app.

In fact, I was surprised at how fast and easy it was to set up the system. The camera assembly itself is a single piece that recesses into the lower edge of the dashboard skyline and windshield and adheres to the glass with a high-strength adhesive. It’s not strong enough to stop a car thief from taking it out, but it will keep your camera in place as you travel through America’s crumbling highway infrastructure system. One point of contention that I could see emerging is that the camera needs access to a home wi-fi connection during the setup/app pairing sequence. I’ve been able to get around my driveway until I’m on the outside of the wall from my home router, but if you live in an apartment complex, things can get dicey.

“If you can’t connect to your home Wi-Fi during setup, you can set up the device with LTE through Ring Protect Go,” a Ring representative told Engadget. “Just skip the ‘Set up with Wi-Fi’ step in the setup flow and follow the onscreen instructions. Every new customer will receive a free 30-day trial of Ring Protect Go, which offers LTE connectivity.”

I wasn’t at all a fan of the camera’s wired power connection to the car’s OBDII port, which also monitors battery voltage so the camera can turn itself off before the power supply is fully depleted. First, this physical requirement limits the vehicles this system can work with to only those that have the OBD ports located to the left of the steering column. On the other hand, I now have a 6-foot cable that snaked through my ex-pure dashboard, and coiled under the driver’s side door panel to connect to the OBDII port just above the brake pedal. Even with the included 3M adhesive cable remaining (which, might I add, was immediately stymied by the small creases and creases on the surface of my dashboard), I can hear the wire moving and sliding during turns, and I’m constantly aware of this when swinging my legs out of the car lest I accidentally snap it on the toe and the connector is ripped out of the port. Which I did the first time I drove after installation – and then the next too.

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Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

The other problem is that not every car has an OBDII port located in the passenger compartment and Ring Car Cam will not work for those vehicles. None of the vehicles will work This somewhat expanded list of incompatible models For one reason or another – some cut power to the outlet when the key is removed and Teslas, for their part, don’t even use an OBDII interface. What’s more, if your dongle is already in use, whether it’s for an insurance tracker or an interlock device, you’re SOL with using a car cam. Same if you buy it Jurisdictions limit the use of dashcams – Except after that you will also go to jail.

Ring Car Camera shots, they're kind of blurry and grainy

Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

At 1080p, the Car Cam’s video quality is well suited to what the average driver might use it for, and an inward-facing infrared sensor will ensure you’ll get a good look at anyone peering through the center console at three in the morning. But because it’s mounted on the same dashboard and isn’t suspended from the rearview mirror like the commercial mirror you find on Ubers and Lyfts, you don’t get much interior visibility below chest level. It also takes a hot second to access these videos, as the clips aren’t transferred directly to your phone (if using Protect Go). It must first be uploaded and processed in the cloud before you can view it.

The camera offers a variety of recording options. You can set it up for continuous use, as you would a traditional dash cam—and if you don’t want it recording you, the unit thankfully includes a physical lens cover for the interior cam. You can also use it specifically for traffic stops with the verbal command “Alexa, record”, the system will record without interruption for 20 minutes even after the ignition is turned off. Finally, there is a parking protection mode that activates the camera if it detects movement or an impact while the car is stationary.

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Ring Car Camera shots, they're kind of blurry and grainy

Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

All recorded data—up to seven hours’ worth—is saved locally on the device and available once the camera is back in range of a Wi-Fi connection. Again, this isn’t great if a thief or cop rips the unit off before uploading the information. Also, there is no loop recording, so if something important happens when you have 6 hours 56 minutes of video saved already, you’d better solve the same problem in less than 4 minutes, otherwise the recording will simply cut off.

To get around that, you’ll need to have access to the cloud and spend $6 a month (or $60 a year) for Ring Protect Go its subscription service. In addition, Protect Go unlocks access to the camera’s built-in LTE connectivity enabling two-way viewing, talk, notifications, and GPS tracking from anywhere with cellular service. Without access to this subscription, these features are only available over Wi-Fi.

Ring Car Camera shots, they're kind of blurry and grainy

Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

Ring’s business decisions have made it clear that along with the police — even if not the homeowners themselves — they freely volunteer data acquisition, and often cooperate with it, with law enforcement agencies across the country. When asked if safeguards have been put in place to prevent law enforcement from surreptitiously spying through Car Cam, a Ring spokesperson said, “Ring makes products and services for our customers, not for law enforcement. When parked, Car Cam only records when it detects smart sensors an accident (such as a collision or a broken window) or if the device owner or shared user initiates Live View”. It’s not clear what happens to that data once it leaves the device and into Ring’s cloud servers.

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Even if I could put Ring’s intimacy with the police aside, $250 for what the Car Cam offers is a lot to ask, especially with the $6 per month cherry on top for anything that works out of your driveway. Sure, if you’re already part of the Ring ecosystem, love what they have to offer and would like to expand this platform to your car, then you should definitely give Car Cam a shot. But if you’re in the market for a standalone vehicle security system, there are plenty of options out there to choose from Offers many of the same features Like the arena at a fraction of the price and without the baggage – or exploding power cable.

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