The Nauto dashcam is a 720p cloud connected camera that has its own cellular connection which will cost you just $5 a month through their partnership with Uber.
I am not too thrilled about the quality of the camera, (I have had 720p dashcams before and they have had a hard time picking up license plates of the car in front me, and struggles at night to gather details.) The one thing I do like though, is the video footage posted to Nauto’s website does appear to be actual footage, and not simply a professional camera used for marketing purposes. It should be noted though, that just because it says 720p does not mean the quality will be the same. A lot of it has to do with software code inside the phone. (Example: An android phone may 20mp, but the iPhone 12mp seems clearer, and crispier.) This will initially be a non factor for me as I do plan on getting the camera to try out hands on. (I will post a better review on this website once this happens. (see installation part of this post below).
Uber is really pushing this camera because their support associates can access the camera in the event of an incident with a rider. The camera does not save everything to the cloud, nor does it live stream, but it does have its on cellular connection, so it is independent of your phone.
“When driving with Uber, Nauto’s integration is specifically designed for Uber driver-partners to easily request that Uber support agents review the video footage from a trip. Uber is not authorized to access any footage unless it is for the purpose of responding to a request for review initiated by the driver-partner, or for investigating any potential serious safety incidents (for example, a physical altercation, sexual misconduct, or serious vehicle crash). “
So what if Uber wants to access the camera because of a serious safety incident?
– “Uber sends a request to Nauto via API with specific timestamps between an individual trip’s start and stop time (they don’t get access to all 30 hrs)”
– “Only footage within that time frame is then sent from the local device to the Nauto cloud and shared with Uber via API.”
So what does this mean in laymen terms? Uber must input a time that falls under a Uber ride. Sure, they can sit there and pull each trip for the last 30 hours 1 by 1, but that is going to take a while, and probably not the best use of Uber employees time.
“We recognize that every new technology comes with responsibility of use. Nauto’s mission is to make driving safer and smarter, and we’ve been doing so while trying to maximize privacy. Nauto fleet customers have used our technology to exonerate drivers (there are lots of scams targeting drivers), expedite claims (drivers don’t have to wait long to get claims resolved), and most importantly, save the lives of drivers inside the vehicle and pedestrians outside the vehicle.”
That last statement is what pretty much sold me on getting the camera installed. The fact that we can easily share video with support to exonerate us, can be very helpful. Just last week, a driver told me that a rider made a false report about him driving drunk. Uber’s hands are tied at that point right? They have to temporarily deactivate the driver to make sure he or she does not pick anyone up drunk for that night while they conduct their investigation. (He was since re instated, but it took a day or two. He also got the warning, that if this happens again and it becomes a pattern, he can and likely will be deactivated. As a full time driver, he felt that pinch. What if he had this camera? Theoretically, Uber support could of reviewed the camera footage for that trip and would be able to confirm he was not drunk on that ride. (speech slurring, sleepy eyes, swerving, should be on the camera.) Furthermore, with the dashcam footage, they could of completely exonerated him from being drunk, and that record would not be in his file. It will be like a clean slate. Now, he has to worry that if a rider alleges he was drunk again, he can very well be deactivated.
For the riders benefit, “driver-partners can view but are unable to download and save requested footage from video recorded on an Uber ride.”
This is totally understandable, since riders enjoy their privacy as well, but not being able to save it or download it, does have its downside. I once had a rider allege that I did not pick them up, over a month after the ride happend. This was not true, but rather she had to pay $200 extra for a ride. Uber believed my side of the story, but what about next time? The Nauto camera only saves 30 hours worth of driving time. While this is a lot for the average person, this can easily be overwritten in 48 hours by a rideshare driver. Because of this shortage, I will be keeping my personal dashcam installed and turned on, even though I may have Nauto. Picking up a wrong rider, is really not a big deal in itself, especially because $200 rides do not happen anymore, BUT what if a rider alleges sexual assault or another crime? Having dashcam footage can be the only thing that exonerates you. Because of this, I will continue to have my dashcam even though the Nauto cam will be running. Uber may not have a way to receive dashcam footage outside of Nauto, (as they have claimed in the past) but I will still be able to show my dashcam footage to the important people, like police officers and family to exonerate my name.
Another huge question on drivers minds, is what about data collection? Uber has not been shy about their dream for autonomous cars replacing us. Will the Nauto dash cam contribute to this?
“Nauto collects depersonalized data such as road environment, road conditions, collisions, lighting, weather, inertial measurement unit (IMU), distraction alert-related information. The depersonalized data is used to train Nauto algorithms to improve the Nauto intelligent safety system. The cameras are not part of an autonomous vehicle system.“
By default, I do not trust Uber, (after all, Uber broke laws in order to establish itself in nearly every market.) but I do feel Nauto is taking the proper precautions to prevent Uber from accessing footage and other data when they are not authorized to do so. The only issue really is the fact that they can access footage at their own will. ( for “serious incidents” and by putting in timestamps). However, that is very time consuming if you are talking about 30 hours worth of video footage and other data. So I think for the most part, we can safely assume our privacy is not really being breached.
This also means that Uber is not going to “micromanage” us as some think. On the Nauto’s website, it states that you will be able to coach drivers in basically real time. Here’s the thing: Uber is not getting your footage/driving distraction reports in real time. So go ahead, pick your nose. If you get into a wreck picking your nose, however, Uber will be alerted, so be careful. Of course, if Uber decides to “coach” us on our driving habits, that can easily be construed that we are employees. Uber does not want us to be employees. They fight tooth and nail to ensure we are not classified as such.
Will I personally be getting the Nauto?
I will be getting the dashcam. At $5 a month, there is really not much to lose if I end up not liking it. (The 720p is the most concerning, will I be able to see a license plate after a hit and run?) At the end of the day, I am not in the habit of assaulting riders or having altercations with them, so I do not really have anything to hide. I just love the fact that we are able to share incidents with Uber. I would love to show Uber when someone vomits in my car, so they can give a cleaning fee without hesitation you know? Maybe this will take away the new “submit a receipt or risk not getting a cleaning fee next time.” (I am not waiting till the morning to take my car to a detailer, I clean it myself)
However, I will be using it with my current dashcam. Why?
I will be able to turn off my Nauto when I am not driving with a rider and I will still be covered in the event of an accident. It is not even about privacy so much as it is about extending 30 hours of saved footage for Uber to look back at, if something were to be alleged. I feel like I am only with a rider about 50% of the time at most. By turning off the camera when I am not with a rider, I can extend that storage to up to 60 hours.
There is no screen on the camera, but it does have two lights that turn on when the camera is recording. Green in the day, red at night. The light changes to blue, but this simply means the software is updating. If you do not see any lights, that means the camera is likely not powered. Therefore you are no being recorded.
If you do not like being recorded yourself, you can easily throw a piece of electrical tape on the interior camera. This way, you can still capture the road but it won’t be able to see you. The downside this is, if a rider alleges you of something, and you have the camera blocked, that can be a red flag for whoever is investigating.
Pro Tip: If you do not have another dashcam, Remember, Nauto does allow you to view video through the app at your will. (the Nauto camera does not have a monitor built in.) There are some apps that do not allow screen recording. However, if you have a second phone (as many of us do already), you can easily use one of those phones to record what is on your screen. It won’t be as good quality, but at least you will be able to save it.
(A special shout out to Danielle from Nauto who took the time to respond to our concerns about privacy and who ultimately persuaded me to go through with getting the Nauto dashcam installed. I honestly thought Nauto would refer me to Uber, but this was not the case. That shows they care about their customers (us drivers) and will likely ensure Uber is not misusing the camera.