The Dash Cam Project

UPDATE:  A few years in and the ROVE DashCam is going strong. The only failure to date is the MicroSD, it died last summer and I just now have to replace it.

I'm a bit of a tech-head, okay, maybe that's a bit of an understatement. I got my first computer in 1982 and worked in the IT field professionally in the '90s when the Internet was really getting started. I worked for big companies like AT&T, IBM, Digital, Honeywell, etc. Around 2000, I got out because it just got too competitive, and everyone was all about certificates and the paper you carried. I went full-time EMS and then eventually Firefighting in 2006. I retired in 2010. Though I still hang onto my tech roots and tinker prolifically.

With the rise of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc., and just the craziness of drivers lately, I began looking into DashCams.

For one, it's a neat little technical project. Secondly, it provides peace of mind if you should get into or even witness an accident or other event on the road. Thirdly, it's just a cool thing to do. I was looking at several options on Amazon ranging from $50 on up to $200.Three of the top contenders were:

Three of the top runners were:
REXING V2 PRO Full HD Dual Camera 2.7” LCD Screen | Dash and Inside Cabin Infrared Night Vision
TOGUARD Dual Dash Cam with IR Night Vision, FHD 1080P Front and 720P Inside Cabin Dual Lens Car Dash Camera with 1.5 inch LCD Display
Nexar Beam GPS | Full HD 1080p Dash Cam | 2021 Model

All three had their pros and cons. One of the things I didn't like about the turn-key devices was the reliance on an SD-Card or the need to pay for a separate cloud storage service. Plus, all the ones I was looking at with the features I wanted at a price I was willing to pay seemed really big and unwieldy. One of my pet peeves is things hanging from the rearview mirror. I can't stand that! And the screens on the turn-key devices were like 1 or 2 inches. I began looking at different downloadable apps, Nexar, DriveRecorder, AutoGuard Dash Cam - Blackbox
AutoBoy BlackBox and DailyRoads Voyager.

Again, each one had its pros and cons. I finally settled on DailyRoads Voyager. I liked its interface, options, stability, and of course, the price ($4.99 USD). I downloaded DailyRoads Voyager Pro and began setting it up on a Raspberry Pi 4B+ 8GB with an IR camera and a 7" TouchScreen.​ I ran Lineage OS 17.1 but Android really isn't targeted for the Pi and was just too unstable and ran hot. It just ended up too troublesome to cobble together. Not to mention the case and mount I would have had to design and print for it and the space it would have taken up. Though the 7" touch screen would have been nice.

In the end, I set up an old phone, my wife's Samsung Galaxy Note 10, which was having issues sending and receiving calls/texts, so it was retired for a new Motorola One 5G. Her old Note 10 worked out the best. No need for a SIM card or data plan either. It uses the WiFi from my
Harmon Spark (from AT&T ) OBD-II port Smart Car device. Using the phone also allows me to use other apps too, like Google Maps or the app to control my HAM Radio. A little more versatility. You know how I said that I like to tinker. The DailyRoads app allows me to upload to my GoogleDrive or Dropbox. Though I do wish I could upload to a private server, like my own FTP box in my workshop where I have 12TB of storage versus the 2.5TB on Dropbox or the 1TB on Google. The phone mount sits pretty low, so it is out of my "drive" vision but still captures the road. And the screens on the turn-key devices were like 1 or 2 inches.

With the Galaxy Note 10, I've got like a 6x2.5 inch screen! in a 1/4" thin package! And what a 10-hour battery backup. Then I have ​my Samsung Galaxy S7 10" tablet  on a flexible arm mount (uses  (uses a seat bolt from the passenger seat) for my GPS and when ever I need internet access to looks things up. Basically anything I would need a PC for, can even connect into my home PC's and remotely control them as if I was at my desk. comes in handy when you're somewhere official, like the VA, DMV, a car dealership, and need to retrieve an important document.   I printedsmall air vent bracket for my Google Pixel 4 XL phone to use the radio app that controls my HAM radio. (Vero VRN7500)

Google made changes to their map app. It used to be where you can tap an icon, and it would pull up the GPS that follows your progress and after being stationary for a set period of time, it would reset to just the default map. Then you could tap on "Start Driving" and it would go back to tracking you again. BUT, they removed the "Start Driving" option. Now you have to CLOSE the app and RESTART it! Having the map app and the radio app on the tablet, I had to split the screen between the two apps. Before with the "Start Driving" option, it was no big deal, but having to restart maps all the time, I have to constantly resplit the screen, which can be a pain in the ass to constantly do. Hence why I'm thinking of putting the HAM app on my phone and putting it on an air vent. If any calls come through, they automatically go through my truck's radio via Bluetooth, and I can make calls by hitting a button on the steering wheel...All in all, it's a pretty neat setup. And it really doesn't take up much room. The tablet takes up the most space, used to use a cup-holder mount but it broke when I was trying to adjust it, then my folks had my old seat bracket mount from the Kia Sorento. So now I have full use of both of my cup-holders! hehehe. I used Daily Roads Pro for a few days, and it worked quite well. The videos it recorded were good quality even "dumbed" down to 720p to save space, the video files weren't very large (average 300mb), the recordings didn't skip or miss much. When I did record audio, the audio was clear and loud. The only shortcoming I really couldn't get around was the fact that the videos weren't automatically overlaid with GPS data and speed data. You have to pay extra for access to a separate server to add that data to each video after the fact. The reason was given was that Android did not allow real-time overlays being written to the files. shrug The cost was minimal, $4.99 a month for unlimited videos or something like that. But having to do it to EACH video one by one could get tedious. Having the videos automatically uploaded to Dropbox or Google Drive was a nice feature. Ate up mobile data and battery life though.

To get around the overlay problem, I tried using a HUD app on another spare phone. For this, I found Navier HUD 3. In the end, I decided on a turnkey solution, going with the ​ the Rove R2-4K Dash Cam. At just under $80, it was a pretty good deal. It has a small screen, 2.4 inches, so you do notice the difference from the 6-inch Note 10 screen. It is dependent on a Class 10 MicroSD card for storage, so no automatic uploads to the cloud or server storage. Moving the videos has to be done either via the Rove app or via good ol' sneaker net. The videos, dumbed down to 720p, are good and clear. No skips, fluid movement. Audio is clear too when enabled.

The main selling point was the overlaid GPS/Speed data on the video. The Rove does have a battery, so it does parking monitoring and whatever else you would need a battery for. The kit comes with a long USB cable and a short USB cable, a cigarette plug, suction mount, sticky tape mount, a few cable clips, and a push tool to push the cable into crevices. I mounted the cam just to the side and slightly behind my rearview mirror. High enough to be out of sight, but the screen is still visible. This required me using the sticky tape mount since on my windshield around my rear view mirror is textured. The suction mount wouldn't grab. I ran the long USB cable along the top of the windshield, down the passenger side and under the glove box to the cigarette lighter USB outlet.

So far, so good! As far as the HUD goes, I'm going to set up the Note 10 ​with Navier 3 and pair it with a Innova Quicklink OBDII Wireless Adapter and pull my engine data, speed, nav history, and a moving map. I already tried it with ​with a cheap OBD-II Bluetooth adapter ($9.99) but the results were abysmal. None of my devices would stay connected to it for more than a few minutes. Hopefully stepping up to a bit more expensive one will work out better.

Quick Update: It turned out not to be the Bluetooth OBD-II adapter that was the culprit but the Y-Cable that was causing the connection failure of the HUD program. Once I directly connected the adapter to the port, everything connected like it should. Navier 3 is giving me all my stats in real time and my HUD and moving map are performing great! I no longer have the Harmon Spark connected, so there is no WiFi connection, though the Rove doesn't utilize WiFi, and the rest of my devices have their own data connection. The one thing I do lose is tracking of my vehicle when it is out and about. So I will probably look for a GPS tracking solution that doesn't use the OBD-II port that I can squirrel away in the truck. There are a few solutions out there."