Until recently, this has been written off as an Eastern European aberration, but the electronics industry, sensing a gap in the market, sees it as an opportunity to turn British cars, too, into spy vehicles.
The satellite navigation maker Mio is the latest entrant to a burgeoning market, with a range of six self-install dash cams starting at £70. Devices like these could become the first techno-craze of 2015.
Dash cams start recording as soon as you turn on the ignition, which means that if you are unfortunate enough to be in an accident, it will have been captured automatically and can be sent to your insurance company as evidence.
Dash cams are surprisingly low-tech when it comes to installation: you simply suction-cup them behind your rear view mirror and run the supplied cable across the top of your windscreen, down the side and into the cigarette lighter socket. If you can loosen your car’s trim, you can tuck the wiring behind it and out of sight – but if you already use your lighter socket for other purposes you’ll need to buy a two-way adapter.
The number of features will depend on how much you pay, but among the more useful ones are integrated GPS, which lets you embed location and speed data in the video recording. Night vision recording and the widest possible lens are also useful upgrades.
Most dash cams will record to an SD card and delete old footage automatically, to create more space. So choose one with a G-sensor that will earmark recordings for safe keeping if an impact has been detected. You might also want one with Parking Mode, in which the sensor activates and starts recording if someone hits your vehicle when you’re not in it.
Dash cams usually record only the forward-facing view, but a few top-end models will simultaneously monitor the image inside the car or through the rear window. Nearly all the current models will record in high-definition.
It’s early days yet for the dash cam and prices will almost certainly fall over the coming months; I’d be surprised if they couldn’t be had for 30 quid before 2015 is out. In the meantime, you can be at the vanguard of a modern-day Russian revolution.