With coronavirus grounding everyday life to a halt and most families stuck at home, that means there are also a lot more cars in the driveway for aspiring thieves to choose from. In fact, COVID has brought an increase in car thefts with fewer cars out on the road.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), motor vehicle theft cost a total of $6 billion in 2018 alone; the price tag per theft topped $8,400. This comes after significant and consistent decreases in motor vehicle theft since 1991.
It’s not just high-end luxury cars that are being stolen, either. III notes data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) that shows the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle in 2017 was the Honda Civic, an everyday, run-of-the-mill model. Older models were more frequently stolen than brand-new models. The Honda Accord was second, and other standard models like Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Toyota Corolla all make an appearance on the top ten.
Older vehicles have become the prime targets because of their lack of security provided in newer models thanks to more innovative technology. Ring, however, thinks it has a solution; their new Ring car camera.
[ Read: Ring Security Cameras ]
What Are the Benefits of Ring’s New Car Camera?
Using technological advancements from Tesla, this is Ring’s first venture in cameras outside of your home, and it is coming to a car near you as soon as next year, through their official website and Amazon.com.
"Having the same level of safety and security that you have in the home in the car is something that people were really asking for, and they were asking for it for a long time,” Ring's Head of Mobile Products, Nathan Ackerman, said in a Roadshow interview.
CEO Siminoff agrees. “Truly since we started Ring, and even back in Doorbot days, people were asking for automotive security,” he says. “Our mission is making neighborhoods safer, and a lot of the stuff that happens to cars happens in the neighborhood.”
The new suite of Ring car products integrates seamlessly with the same familiar Ring app that you already use for your home security system. It adds extra accessibility since there are no new apps or programs to download. The system will be powered by Amazon’s new Sidewalk network.
“As we started looking into it more, we realized that really, it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of product line, even to start,” says Siminoff. “We realized that it really was about trying to build more of a suite of products around the car.”
So, they created three.
The new series gives you a choice from the following:
- Car Cam - $199.99
- Car Alarm - $59.99
- Car Connect - $199.99
We take an in-depth look at each.
This is the car alarm for the modern generation, capable of detecting break-ins, attempted tow-aways and different forms of impact, such as a collision from another vehicle or even the brush from a passing pedestrian.
Alerts come in many forms. You will not only receive alerts on your phone, but the system also integrates with your Ring and Alexa devices. You will receive alerts on your phone and can trigger the alarm using the handy built-in siren on your remote. It also integrates with both Ring and Alexa devices.
The Ring Car Alarm is compatible with your car’s OBD-II diagnostic port, tapping into your vehicle’s accelerometer and sound sensors to notify you when trouble is afoot. It can even ping your car's location to help you find it should it be stolen or towed.
There will not be any type of subscription service needed for the Ring Car Alarm, just a single purchase and a quick DIY setup before you’re all set up.
The Car Cam takes things one step further with video surveillance of your vehicle.
This camera is able to record both the interior and the exterior of the car simultaneously when mounted on your front dash. For greater privacy, you have the option to turn audio and video recording on and off at will.
The Ring Car Cam also brings a thoughtful new initiative to your car.
"Traffic stops can be a time when having video is important, so that everyone remains on their best behavior," reminds Ackerman. "So, we developed a feature to support that."
If you tell Alexa you’re being pulled over, recording will automatically engage with all data stored remotely on the cloud. It can even store emergency contacts that Ring will automatically notify if you get pulled over.
The Ring Car Cam uses the same type of alarm reporting system as the car alarm, offering instant notifications when it detects a disturbance. Instead of the alarm, however, you can access your camera’s live feed instantly, so there’s no delay in responding to an emergency. The Car Cam can even immediately notify first responders when you are in a crash.
All you need is WiFi or LTE to connect, and your cameras are live.
This is where the Tesla partnership comes into play. Currently, this is a feature offered exclusively through specific Tesla models: the Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y. Car Connect integrates with the Sentry Mode of these vehicles, using the cameras already equipped.
"The idea is to leverage the hardware, both cameras and sensors, that are being built into carmakers' vehicles and to allow that content and those notifications and the video to be seen inside the Ring app," says Ackerman.
With Car Connect, you can view your car’s interior and exterior cameras from anywhere in the world and check your video feed. You may need to subscribe to an additional connectivity plan, but no announcements have been made regarding specifics.
Ring plans to bring the Car Connect platform to more car manufacturers in the future.
Will the Ring Car Camera Deter Crime?
There’s no doubt that the widespread prevalence of car alarms and video surveillance will help deter future vehicle theft and crime.
Nexar is another manufacturer in the personal security space, and it has had great success with its dash cams. Ronen Sofer, Nexar's Chief Product Officer, says: “Nexar has always regarded the in-vehicle camera as more than just an evidence-keeping device in the case of a collision,” he says. “Ring seems to be going in the right direction.”
Sturgeon Christie, CEO at Second Skin Audio, specifically highlights the “Traffic Stop” feature of Ring’s Car Carm, saying that it “can help bring people peace of mind when they are pulled over. With the ‘Traffic Stop’ feature, you can tell the equipment to have the cameras record your traffic stop and upload that footage to the cloud.”
That doesn’t mean that the Ring Car Alarm doesn’t have its benefits, too.
“A great feature that's included with even the more basic Ring Car Alarm is a built-in siren that can be linked to other Ring or Alexa devices to sound audible alerts when an event is detected,” says Christie. “Even if you were asleep and didn't have your phone near you, your Alexa would announce there's been a break-in, and it would wake you up right away.”
Vasil Tarasevich, Chief Technical Officer for software development company HQSoftware and an expert in IoT, approaches the new devices with a technical eye. “Ring's new car security camera in a simple IoT device with powerful capabilities. This is definitely an improvement since the camera records both outsides and inside of the car, ping first responders when a car crash or burglary happens, and even cares for the privacy - the camera has a built-in physical shutter and the ability to stop all interior recording.”
What kinds of crime can it prevent?
This new kind of instant, advanced reporting is already transforming vehicle security.
“We've seen that the overall dash cam category is taking off, as people are beginning to realize the potential of the car being a ‘camera on wheels,’” says Nexar's Sofer. “People want dash cams to address issues of social trust and also are beginning to understand that there is more potential there.”
The technology accomplishes far more than that.
“The Ring Car Cam doesn't just protect you from break-ins, but it can also automatically ping first responders in the event of a serious crash. That automatic alert could prove lifesaving if you or your passengers needed immediate medical assistance,” says Christie.
Sofar says the benefits for Nexar have been tremendous, with the popularity of these devices also gaining momentum on social media.
“We also see people wanting to publish what they see,” he says. “In fact, we have a very active FB page called ‘Captured with Nexar,’ where people share what they see in their cities, such as a tree that fell, a collision that happened, or a traffic sign that fell.”
It’s this kind of collaborative technology that has made software like Waze so immensely popular, with users sharing in real-time their experiences on the road.
Sofar isn’t surprised to see Ring enter this field. “It makes sense to see Ring join this trend, and it is undoubtedly an improvement over older technologies," muses Sofar.
What kinds of crime can it cause?
It’s not an entirely perfect system, however.
Greg Scott is an expert cybersecurity professional and published author in the field. While he appreciates the good that these devices can bring, he warns users to use extra precautions to protect themselves.
“On these new Ring cameras, I hope they’ve improved their default authentication settings and customer support,” he says. “Back in late 2019, the Washington Post ran a story about a Ring Camera terrorizing a family. An eight-year-old girl’s parents installed the camera, and somebody across the internet used it to stalk this little girl.”
It is something that could be prevented in the future, he says. “The default camera settings were too liberal and allowed this attacker to find and compromise it. With these new devices guarding sensitive areas, good default security settings are vital.”
However, the average user may not have the technical know-how to safely and properly install these devices. That’s where customer service becomes crucial. “Customer service is important because most consumers don’t have the information they need to properly deploy these devices,” he explains.
Scott shares with us some of his best tips to protect your camera from hackers and other prying eyes. “Consumers should make sure any smart-home device, and especially security sensors, use 2-factor authentication (2FA) by default and have a credible means for pulling software updates from the manufacturer. And in no case should any device have any hidden login accounts or back-doors for maintenance, because those hidden features do not stay hidden for long,” he warns.
With a little extra care, you can adjust your settings to heighten your security so you can use your camera free of worry or interference.
Legal Ramifications for Car Cameras
First, though, Ring has a few hoops to jump through. Ring clearly states that "these devices have not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. These devices are not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained."
This is likely why sales aren’t slated until next year. In the meantime, experts and consumers alike continue to await the highly anticipated new additions to the personal security space.
“In my opinion, this is enough to deter car burglaries and enhance owners' safety,” says Tarasevich at HQSoftware.
For Washington Post technology columnist, Geoffrey A. Fowler, “the benefits of this technology are clear. The video clips from my car made a pretty compelling case for the city to pay for my repairs without even getting my insurance involved.”
It made him a believer despite his concerns about privacy, and he’s not the only one, either. “Lots of Tesla owners proudly share crazy footage on YouTube. It’s been successfully used to put criminals behind bars,” Fowler says.
The Bottom Line
This new line continues in the tradition of innovative, groundbreaking Ring technology. While car alarms and video recording is nothing new, the addition of new features like traffic stop assistance and instant emergency service deployment separate Ring from the rest.
Ackerman also urges you not to forget about the simplicity and convenience that their other devices can bring.
“I think 'linked devices' is a concept that's really powerful here," he says. "It's not just a single camera; it's a camera working with all of your Ring devices. So maybe an alarm trigger in your driveway turns on your house's floodlights and the cameras on those floodlights. The Car Cam can work within the larger Ring system and connect all of your devices together."
Siminoff stands proudly behind his new products, saying that at Ring, they “only launch something when it’s truly inventive, differentiated for the market, fits our mission and can really make a customer’s life better.”
It sounds, by all accounts, like they’ve hit the mark.
Photo by Suriyo Hmun Kaew / EyeEm/ Gettyimages