So what is a DVR?
Over the past few years, dash-mounted cameras have become increasingly popular in vehicles in the US and Europe. Even though the insurance industry does not seem to be reacting to this development (they seem to prefer the installation of black box recorders), there have been instances where dash cam evidence has been accepted.
While DVRs can be quite cheap (you can get them from Amazon for under $30), if you have an old smartphone with a built-in camera, there’s no reason not to use it instead — and it’s easy and affordable to do so.
What do you need to build a DVR
We are going to spend the rest of the article on turning an old smartphone into a dash cam. The process is simple, but there are a few things you need to be aware of.
First of all, you will need a way to mount the device. Various dashboard smartphone mounts are available and you should choose something that provides a view of the windshield. It may take some work — thanks to a Dremel-style handheld power tool — to get your smartphone’s camera to see «through» the phone holder on the dashboard mount. Handlebar mounts are available for motorcycles and similar modifications may be required.
You will also need an application. This aspect of the project is not that important as dash cam applications are very similar across platforms. Below, we’ll take a look at which apps are best for your phone.
Finally, consider the power supply. Typically, this will be your phone’s car charger. With video recording and maybe even GPS, you’ll find your smartphone’s battery drains quickly without a charger when using it as a dash cam.
Using the DVR on the road
For my dash cam smartphone project, I used a «hand bend» dash mount, the same one I use to mount my phone in my car for normal use. However, I made a couple of changes due to some design flaws. Basically, the spring-loaded adjustment was glued on, as the mount had trouble holding any smartphone mounted on it. While this limits the holder to phones of a certain size, expensive phones are now much less likely to fly off the dash and potentially cause an accident.