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A dashcam and satellite navigation have become driving essentials
Over 300 hours of video is uploaded to the internet every minute – a remarkable statistic by any standards. It can be a terrible ‘time-suck’ and I’m sure you’ve also clicked on something and ended up wasting a few minutes of precious time watching something which didn’t really add any value ...
Much of it is dashcam video footage from Russia, showing the crazy antics of the nation’s drivers. Some of it is funny, some of it plain tragic. Dashcams are all the rage – no pun intended – and with good reason: it provides a reliable record of what happened in event of an on-the-road incident. This has benefits for police and insurance companies – and also for companies like YouTube.
With the miniaturisation of everything, it has become practical to combine different functionality in one device. In much the same way that your phone is no longer just used for making and receiving calls, the dashcam now does more than just record what is happening in front of you.
I’ve been testing a new device from Garmin and one which is stocked at ATS: the Garmin DriveAssist 50 LMT. The 50 is a reference to the five-inch capacitive touchscreen so there’s decent real estate, which is important as the display must multitask on occasion. “DriveAssist” sums up the rest of it pretty well.
Think of all the best features of a dashcam and all the best features of a portable satellite navigation system and bundle them into one neat box which is about the size of an average smartphone. Then add state-of-the-art technology like proximity alerts (a warning sounds when you’re too close - or closing too fast – on the vehicle ahead of you), lane departure warning and even a ‘go’ alert when traffic starts moving. These are features only found in high-end cars until quite recently.
It has the usual Bluetooth functionality and hooking it to one’s smartphone is effortless. While your car might also have this form of connection, with the DriveAssist you get notifications in your line of sight, which is pretty neat.
Voice-activated (almost) everything means you can keep your hands on the wheel more of the time while the multitude of voice alerts improve situational awareness. It might not actually make you a better driver, but it’ll make you a safer driver.
After a week with it attached to my windscreen, I have to wonder how I ever managed without one. I’ve been a big fan of portable satnav for many years, thanks to my sometimes poor sense of direction – especially in the Western Cape, for some reason. I’m also strongly opposed to holding a phone whilst on the move and to be honest, I try to avoid deep, meaningful conversations when driving too. So a Satnav device that you can connect your phone to is an essential for me.
Maybe I’m just no good at multi-tasking, unlike most South Africans who are obviously much more talented in this regard than me. But the research on distracted driving is compelling: ever arrived at your destination and have little recollection of the journey? That might have something to do with the long conversation regarding an important deal that dominated your drive to the office.
If there’s a criticism of the device, it has to be that highly reflective screen but you can minimise that by tilting it downwards a little…
There seems to be some doubt whether many of us will be driving a decade or two from now. Autonomous cars may make the pilot superfluous and then navigation devices and cameras will be even more integrated with the vehicle. Having said that, I think there’s going to be an important place for a dash-mounted camera/satnav for many years to come, and they’re becoming an essential tool when driving in South Africa - as they have become in Russia. How you let it impact on your free time is up to you.
The Garmin DriveAssist 50LMT is priced at R5 799.
Both of the links below are from News24.com, a well-known South African news website. They show two recent horror smashes, as captured by dash-mounted cameras. Needless to say, the various authorities (and insurance companies) would be interested in this footage, but I must warn you it is NOT for sensitive viewers...