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A possible emerging product niche for the aftermarket is the in-car "event" recorder that sits on the dashboard and continuously records the surrounding road as you drive.
The device can help establish liabilities in accidents, and parents may use it to monitor teen drivers.
Similar to the black-box recorder used in airplanes, the devices were shown by Roadmaster and Hyundai Autonet at International CES; however, other suppliers are eyeing the segment.
"This is an emerging category, and we have two units in development," said Audiovox Electronics president Tom Malone, adding, "Most of the applications today are in fleets and limos for insurance purposes, but for a lot of good reasons, they will slowly make their way into the retail market. Pricing is coming down, and memory is going up. Installation is minimal, so it has good DIY potential."
Aamp of America VP/COO Ron Freeman said of the category, "It's a great potential product. We're not doing anything with it. But if you could record an event, think of the cost savings for insurance companies."
Roadmaster's Auto-Cam records what is taking place around the car, said the company. It can mount on the dashboard or in the rear of the car. It includes a small recorder with a 1GB chip and it records in a continuous, four-hour loop. The Auto-Cam is battery operated and will ship this month in limited quantities at a suggested retail of $159.
Hyundai Autonet, an OEM supplier, showed a similar device intended for automakers and called the product "an emerging market," according to a spokesman.
Also new from Roadmaster is a GPS/backup camera combination. As a portable navigation device (PND), the unit has a 3.5-inch screen with built-in maps of the full United States and Canada and 11 million points of interest. When the driver puts the car in reverse, the PND automatically goes into backup camera mode. It comes with a camera that mounts on the license plate and will ship in July at a suggested $399. Both the Auto-Cam and GPS/backup camera are part of Roadmaster's VR3 line, which is sold to stores including Wal-Mart, Target and Pep Boys.
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