The connected car of today can’t fly, and it doesn’t let you take a nap on the way to work every morning or home from a night on the town. Autonomous self-driving vehicles are not quite ready for mainstream use, but the tech to make average vehicles smarter and more aware of their surroundings is profound, and continually improving. Blind spot detection, parking assist, backup cameras, and now even braking assist or reverse automatic braking are commonplace in automobiles rolling off the assembly line, and give drivers far more insight and control than ever thought possible.
That being said, there isn’t a current solution to completely mitigate poor or distracted driving, though there are companies that are using innovative technology to keep motorists safe. CarVi is one such company, which uses real-time video data and infrared sensors from a windshield-mounted camera to alert drivers of unsafe conditions, proactively preventing accidents and improving driving skills. While that is a pretty big task to take on, the product successfully funded on Indiegogo has some very unique features that set it apart from other devices designed for automotive safety.
Innovative technology with a practical application
When I first saw CarVi I mentally grouped it in with other dash cameras. And yes, it can be used as a dash cam to continuously record footage, and automatically begin recording when the G-sensor is tripped. But that’s where the similarities end between this unit and several other dash cams I have gotten my mitts on in the past. In fact, this isn’t even marketed as a dash cam, but as a driving assistance device.
While that classification alone might not give any more clarity to the real purpose and functionality of the device, I can break it down pretty simply. CarVi uses real-time video, infrared sensors, and Bluetooth connectivity with other peripherals to constantly monitor driving activities and determine if there is danger present or habitual unsafe driving, which triggers an audio and video alert and event reporting.
Since the main sensory feature is the camera, we’ll start there. A built-in 720p HD camera sits nestled in a cutout on the back of the hockey puck-shaped device, which comes in black, white, or rose gold (for those that need a bit more flash). Something that immediately struck me during setup was that the little camera can be electronically rotated up or down to optimize the field of view for the individual application. This can be controlled via the accompanying app, in the event that you want to use this device in different vehicles and still have a properly calibrated device.
The camera also has an infrared sensor, which has a range of up to 30 feet. This is used to monitor the distance between the unit and the car in front, so CarVi can sound alerts if you are getting too close or if someone cuts you off. The camera uses pattern and lane divider identification to monitor whether or not the vehicle is operating within the lanes, and if a lane change is noticed without first signaling an alert is sounded and the action is logged in the app.
A big part of this system is a small Bluetooth device that wraps around the turn signal. This battery-operated companion to the system constantly communicates with the hub, to determine whether lane changes are intentional or accidental. If the turn signal is not moved prior to a lane change, the action is deemed accidental. The data gathered from this device is used for Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS), which is effective in correcting distracted or tired driving situations.
The system is designed to provide real-time warning for dangers that present themselves that need immediate addressing, and it does this pretty well. The interface isn’t just for audio warnings though, as the app displays a live feed from the camera. This feed has superimposed guide lines on the left and right lane markers, which react to any interference from other vehicles.
When a vehicle crosses into your lanes marked on the screen, the color changes and you can see a countdown to impact. While this might be a little bit much to look at while you are trying to avoid any accident, having your phone secured on the dash within eyesight makes this something more for background visuals than focus material.
The reporting aspect of the app is designed to correct unsafe behavior, taking the long-tail approach to driving assistance. Reviewing the reports after a driving session (or on any schedule) allows you to get insight into habits that could be opening you up to unnecessary risk- tailgating, jackrabbit (or rapid) acceleration, switching lanes too quickly or slowly, not signaling lane changes, etc. I like how this reporting is based on common unsafe habits and tallied up in an analytical manner, rather than spitting out a grade for driving. There is something a touch abrasive about getting a letter grade for my driving, and CarVi leaves the judgment out of the equation.
- Front end collision warning
- Triggered warning sound, with estimated time to collision based on distance
- Adjustable warning time, to give you an alert for tailgating as well
- Lane departure warning
- Detects lane marker colors and patterns (like repeating reflectors when painted lines are not present)
- Bluetooth turn signal detector
- Pairs with the unit to monitor whether or not your turn signal is engaged when changing lanes
- This helps to measure whether or not a lane drift is happening, as well as correct unsignaled turns
- Warning noise timing adjustable on a scale from -2 to +2 for longer periods of warning or shorter ones before impact
- Works both for other drivers edging into your lane, and warning against drifting out of your own lane
- Dash cam recording
- Can be set to full-time recording
- G-sensor recording
- Fairly sensitive so you don’t have to hit hard to engage this feature, driving over rough train tracks even sometimes engages this feature
- 40 second- 1min duration setting
- Records direct to the 16GB MicroSD card (included)
- Driver habit alteration
- Reckless driving
- Hard braking
- Jackrabbit starts
- Driving “SKOR” for the daily driving rating in the app, showing areas of where improvement is needed, allowing you to quantify the bad habits and address them
- Teen/elderly driving assistance
- Route tracking via app
- Time spent driving
- Personalized voice recordings to make them more impactful than a pre-programmed machine one, so you can have a customized message when alerts are triggered
Much more than a dash cam
Unlike other driving aids, this presents itself in a way that makes it reasonable to use for experienced drivers and inexperienced ones. There are other driving improvement technologies out there that operate a little bit differently, with more focus on post-drive report cards designed to be reviewed by parents with new drivers. CarVi is instead catering towards correcting the action in real-time first, with the post-reporting to support.
I like the framework they apply to this: if something unsafe happens, you will know about it instantly instead of needing to wait until after the fact so you can correct the behavior. Also, it positions the device as both a learning and prevention tool; a report doesn’t do too much good after someone cuts you off and causes an accident. This can be very helpful when not only teaching teens how to drive and keeping an eye on their habits, but also giving them the opportunity to learn without being overbearing.
Now the downside to this is that since there is no display on the device itself, in order to see your real-time visual aids you need to have your cell phone within eyesight. This isn’t too big of an issue since you can get a mount for it to display, similar to how you would for a GPS (you remember those things, right?). That does mean that there is something that you need to glance at from time to time while driving, which ironically adds another distraction, but at least it’s a minor one, as the audio alerts guide you most of the way.
Until vehicles can communicate with one another to prevent crashes, human error is still the leading cause for accidents on the road. An extra warning source to proactively avoid dangerous situations, as well as actionable insight to improve driving and visual coverage, are welcome steps to making the road a safer place.