Handy Ring Car Cam: Amazon’s video security ecosystem hits America’s highways

AMazon’s evolution from a ubiquitous shopping platform to a ubiquitous surveillance platform continues apace, having dramatically expanded its line of Ring security camera systems in recent years. Currently, the company offers video doorbells, exterior cameras, interior cameras, flight cameras, lighting systems, alarm systems and vehicle security packages – the latest is why we are here today. I put a Ring camera in my car.

That’s not to say that the Ring Car Camera is a poorly designed or manufactured product — far from it! The $250 Car Camera features dual-facing (pointing both to the road and into the cabin), IR-capable 1080p image sensors, optional LTE connectivity, Alexa-driven voice commands, and remote vehicle monitoring via the Ring mobile app.

In fact, I was surprised by how quickly and easily I was able to install the system. The camera assembly itself is a single piece that wedges into the lower edge of the windshield instrument panel and is glued to the glass with high-strength adhesive. It’s not strong enough to stop a car thief from pulling it off, but it will keep the camera in place as you travel through and through America’s crumbling highway infrastructure system. One sticking point I could see is that the camera needs access to a home wi-fi connection during the setup/device pairing sequence. I was able to pull around my driveway until I was on the outside of my house’s router wall, but if you live in an apartment complex, things might get random.

“If you can’t connect to your home Wi-Fi during setup, you can set up the device over LTE with 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 will get a free 30-day trial of Ring Protect Go, which provides LTE connectivity.”

I wasn’t a fan at all of the wired power connection from the camera 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. First, that physical requirement limits the vehicles this system can work with to only those with OBD ports located to the left of the steering column. For another, I now have a 6-foot long cable snaking through my previously spotless dashboard, draping down my driver’s door panel to connect with the OBDII port just above my brake pedal. Even with the included 3M adhesive cable stays (which, I might add, were immediately hampered by the tiny nicks and grooves of my dashboard surface), I can hear the cord moving and sliding around during turns, I’m constantly aware of it. when i swing my legs out of the car so i don’t accidentally catch it on my toe and rip the connector from the port. Which I did the first time I drove after installation – and then the next one too.

Andres Tarantola / Engadget

The other thing is that not every car has an OBDII port located in the passenger cabin and for those vehicles the Ring Car Cam will not work. Neither do any of the vehicles on this rather extensive list of incompatible models for one reason or another – some will cut power to the port when the key is removed and Teslas, for their part, don’t even use the OBDII interface. Plus, if your dongle is already in use, either for an insurance tracker or an immobilizer, you’re SOL with using a Dash cam. Likewise if you buy it in a jurisdiction that restricts the use of dashcams – except then you go to jail too.

Ring Car Camera shots, they are a bit blurry and grainy tbh

Andres Tarantola / Engadget

At 1080p, the Car Cam’s video quality is fine for what the average driver would presumably use it for and the internal IR sensor will ensure you’ll have a good look at whoever walks through your center console at three in the morning. But, since it’s mounted on the dash itself and not suspended from the rearview mirror like the business class ones you find in Ubers and Lyfts, you won’t get much of a view of the interior below chest level. Accessing those videos also takes a hot second because the clips aren’t transferred directly to your phone (if you’re using Protect Go). They must first be uploaded and processed in the cloud before you can watch them.

The camera offers a variety of recording options. You can set it up for continuous use, as you would a traditional dash cam – and if you don’t want it to record you, the unit thankfully includes a physical lens cover for the interior front-facing camera. You can also use it specifically for traffic stops with the verbal command “Alexa, Record”, in which the system will record continuously for 20 minutes even after the ignition is turned off. Finally, there is a Parking Protection mode that activates the camera if it detects movement or an impact when the vehicle is parked.

Ring Car Camera shots, they are a bit blurry and grainy tbh

Andres Tarantola / Engadget

All recorded data – up to seven hours worth – is stored locally on the device and available once the camera is back in range of a Wi-Fi connection. Again, that’s not great if a thief or the police rips off the unit before the information can be uploaded. Also, there’s no loop recording so if something major happens when you have 6 hours and 56 minutes of video already saved, you’d better hope the issue resolves itself in less than 4 minutes or the recording will just be cut off.

To get around that, you’ll need cloud access and spend $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 chat, notifications and GPS tracking from anywhere with cellular service. Without that subscription access, those features are only available over Wi-Fi.

Ring Car Camera shots, they are a bit blurry and grainy tbh

Andres Tarantola / Engadget

Ring’s business decisions have made it very clear that it is on the side of the police – even if the homeowners themselves are not – freely volunteering data to, and often partnering with, law enforcement agencies across the country. When asked if safeguards were put in place to prevent law enforcement from surreptitiously spying on the Car Cam, the Ring spokesperson noted, “Ring builds products and services for our customers, not law enforcement. When parked, Car Cam only records when the smart sensors detect an incident (like for example a collision or a broken window) or if the device owner or a Shared User initiates Live View.” What happens to that data once it’s off the device and into Ring’s cloud servers was not clear.

Even if I could set aside Ring’s cozy relationship with police, $250 for what the Car Cam offers is a big ask, especially with that $6-a-month cherry on top to get anything running outside of your driveway. Granted, if you’re already part of the Ring ecosystem, like what it has to offer and want to extend that platform to your vehicle, absolutely give the Car Cam a try. But if you’re in the market for a standalone vehicle security system, there are plenty of options available to choose from that offer many of the same features as the Ring at a fraction of the price and without the baggage — or that exploding power cable. .

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publication.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: