Hands-on Ring Car Cam: Amazon’s video security ecosystem meets America’s highways

Amazon’s evolution from ubiquitous shopping platform to ubiquitous surveillance platform is progressing rapidly after the company drastically expanded its line of Ring security camera systems in recent years. Nowadays, the company offers video doorbells, outdoor cameras, indoor cameras, flying cameras, lighting systems, alarm systems and vehicle security packages – the latter is the reason we are here today. I installed a Ring camera in my car.

This is not to say that the Ring Car Camera is a poorly designed or manufactured product – far from it! The $250 dash cam features dual orientation (pointing to both the road and the cabin), IR-enabled 1080p image sensors, optional LTE connectivity, Alexa-controlled voice commands, and remote monitoring of the vehicle via the Ring mobile app .

In fact, I was surprised at how quick and easy it was to set up the system. The camera assembly itself is a single piece that clips into the bottom edge of the windshield dash horizon and is adhered to the glass with a high strength adhesive. It’s not strong enough to deter a car thief from ripping it out, but it does hold the camera in place as you drive over and through America’s crumbling freeway infrastructure system. One sticking point I could see is that the camera requires access to a home Wi-Fi connection during the setup/app pairing sequence. I was able to work my way around my driveway until I was on the outside of the wall from my house’s router, but if you live in an apartment complex things could get tricky.

“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 on-screen instructions. Every new customer gets a free 30-day trial of Ring Protect Go, which offers LTE connectivity.”

READ :  Loverwatch, Overwatch's dating simulator is real, here's how to play

I wasn’t a fan at all of the camera’s wired power connection to the vehicle’s OBDII port, which also monitors the battery voltage so the camera can turn itself off before the power supply runs out completely. For one thing, this physical requirement limits the vehicles that this system can work with to only those with OBD ports located to the left of the steering column. Second, I now have a 6 foot cable that snakes across my previously pristine dash and down my driver’s side door panel to connect to the OBDII port just above my brake pedal. Even with the included 3M adhesive cable stays (which, I might add, were immediately thwarted by the tiny tears and creases on my dash’s surface), I can hear the cable shifting and slipping during turns, I’m sure of it constantly conscious when swinging my legs out of the car so I don’t accidentally catch them on a toe and yank the plug out of the socket. Which I did the very first time I drove after the install – and then the next time too.

Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

The other problem is that not every car has an OBDII port in the passenger compartment and for these vehicles the Ring Car Cam will not work. Also, none of the vehicles on this fairly extensive list of incompatible models will, for one reason or another – some cut power to the connector when the key is removed, and Teslas, for their part, don’t even use the OBDII interface. If your dongle is already in use, be it for an insurance tracker or a locking device, you are SOL with using the Car Cam. Ditto if you buy it in a jurisdiction that restricts dashcam use — except then you’ll go to jail too.

Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

At 1080p, the Car Cam’s video quality is spot on for what the average driver would probably use it for, and the inward-facing IR sensor ensures you get a good look at who’s speeding through your center console at 3am . But since it’s mounted on the dash itself, rather than being hung from the rearview mirror like commercial-grade Ubers and Lyfts are, you don’t get much insight into the interior below chest height. Accessing these videos also takes a hot second since the clips aren’t transferred directly to your phone (when using Protect Go). They must first be uploaded and processed in the cloud before you can view them.

READ :  Overwatch 2 players are noticing an unfinished weapon design on the new Orisa Javelin skin

The camera offers a variety of recording options. You can set it up for continuous use like a traditional dash cam – and if you don’t want it to record you, thankfully the device includes a physical lens cover for the inward-facing camera. You can also use it specifically for traffic stops with the voice command “Alexa, Record”, where the system will record continuously for 20 minutes even after the ignition is switched off. Finally, there’s the parking protection mode, which activates the camera if it detects movement or an impact when the vehicle is parked.

Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

All recorded data – for up to seven hours – is stored locally on the device and made available as soon as the camera is back within range of a Wi-Fi connection. Again, it’s not great if a thief or cop rips the device out before the information can be uploaded. Also, there is no loop recording. So if something important happens when you’ve already saved 6 hours and 56 minutes of video, you better hope things resolve themselves in less than 4 minutes, otherwise the recording will just abort.

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

Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

Ring’s business decisions have made it very clear that it stands with the police — even when the homeowners themselves aren’t — by voluntarily sharing data with law enforcement agencies across the country, and often cooperating with them. When asked if security measures were in place to prevent law enforcement from secretly spying on the car cam, Ring’s spokesperson noted, “Ring creates products and services for our customers, not for law enforcement. When parking, Car Cam only records when the smart sensors detect an incident (such as a collision or a broken window) or when the device owner or shared user initiates Live View.” What happens to that data once it leaves the device and reside on Ring’s cloud servers has not been made clear.

READ :  Aston Martin Valkyrie Review 2023

Even if I could put Ring’s cozy relationship with the police aside, $250 for what the Car Cam offers is a tall order, especially with the $6 a month to get everything working outside your driveway. Granted, if you’re already part of the Ring ecosystem, like what’s on offer, and want to extend this platform to your vehicle, definitely give Car Cam a shot. But if you’re in the market for a standalone vehicle security system, there are plenty of options to choose from, offering many of the same features as the Ring at a fraction of the price and without the luggage – or that darn power cord.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team independently from our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may receive an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at time of publication.