Here’s what happened when I tried Aviva’s free dash cam for a week

The Aviva dash cam in action. Image: Aviva.
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The use of dash cams has risen in recent years with a quarter of UK drivers now using one. I downloaded Aviva’s free version, via the Aviva Drive app, to see why this handy gadget is the latest must-have car accessory.

Confession time: I hate driving in London. I loathe it. In fact, I’d rather get the bus.

Unfortunately, the car is a faster and much more comfortable way to ferry my small children around. And I’m a pretty good driver, a safe one, that is. I’ve not had an accident. Yet.

One thing I do like however is getting free stuff so, when I heard that Aviva had a dash cam app I could download for nothing, naturally I was keen to give it a go.

If you’re not familiar with them, dash cams are small cameras that record your view of the road so – if you’re unlucky enough to have an accident – you can prove exactly what happened.

I’d been curious about buying one (having had some near misses in the past), so saw the appeal, but didn’t really want to pay for one (the cost varies from £30 to £500) or wire it into my car.

And I’m not alone. More than 10.9 million1 UK drivers currently use a dash cam, their popularity perhaps fuelled by the fear of ‘crash for cash’ (a known scam where car accidents are staged by fraudsters so they can make an insurance claim) and unease about the poor state of driving standards in general.

Here’s what I learned when I tried the Aviva Drive dash cam app for a week.

Setting it up

When I told friends I was trialling a dash cam, one told me about the time he bought and attempted to set up a conventional dash cam, only to abandon it thanks to the myriad fiddly wires he was tasked to attach. He returned it and vowed never again.

Thankfully, the app was idiot-proof. After downloading it from my app store, I just had to open it, scroll through some short instructions and press start to record my journey.

The dash cam in place. Image: Aviva.

Getting the position right on my car was a bit harder, as you want the camera to get a full view of the road without obstructing your own. Aviva recommends using the app with a cradle you attach to your windscreen (pictured), which sounds more daunting to set up than it was.

I was given my cradle by Aviva, but a quick Google assured me they can be bought online for around £10.

Other people’s driving

When I downloaded the app I had visions of triumphantly capturing the city’s most hostile, dangerous drivers on film.

I live opposite a primary school on a very narrow road and the traffic around the gates can be a bit scary at times. I found it reassuring to know that, should someone clip my wing mirror, I could prove I wasn’t at fault.

Apart from the school run (which is brutal), my week using the dash cam made me realise London drivers are not that bad. Sure, there are a few people who can’t park or who do drive aggressively, but since I’ve been testing the app I haven’t seen anything truly dangerous.

People observe the speed limit, indicate and, on occasion, even let other drivers out. Aren’t we a considerate lot?


My own driving

I’ve become hyper-aware of my own driving since using the app. Perhaps when I’ve used it for longer I’ll become less self conscious, but for now it’s stopped me gong into autopilot on occasion, which is a good thing.

And it’s not just me. Research suggests that using a dash cam might make people safer drivers. According to a study by Aviva, 46% of drivers2 who tested their dash cam claimed that their driving had improved since using it.

And if critiquing my own driving isn’t enough, the app also monitors it and, helpfully, gives me a score out of 10. Gentle braking, a safe speed and smooth acceleration are all favoured.

I found this quite annoying at first. Then I realised that if, after 200 miles, the app deems you a safe driver, Aviva grants you a discount on your insurance when it’s time to renew.

Oh, and you won’t get penalised if your driving isn’t quite up to scratch. Happy days.

Phones are a distraction

The app doesn’t allow you to take calls, play music or use your sat-nav on your phone while the dash cam feature is in use.

That’s fine, I thought. My humble Yaris doesn’t boast the latest systems that connect your phone to your dash, and I don’t need a sat-nav.

What I have learned is that I use my phone more than I realise, mostly by taking hands-free calls. This is, of course, perfectly legal, but can be distraction.

I was pleased I could use the app with the ‘Driving – Do Not Disturb’ feature on, and put it to good use.

Accidents happen

I didn’t have an accident while trialling the app, but was curious to see what would happen if I did.

My wish was soon granted. The app is sensitive and it ‘detected’ that I’d had an accident on a couple of occasions: once, when I dropped the phone when taking it out of the cradle and another time when I drove over a speed bump too quickly.

The app retains 30 seconds of footage before and after a suspected collision. It actually records the entire journey but on a loop, only keeping it if an accident is detected or if you touch the screen. If not, the video is deleted automatically so as not to use up precious memory on your phone. 

Watching the video. Image: Aviva.

You then have the option to be put straight through to Aviva’s claims team and send your footage to them from the app directly, if you wish.

Great news if you’re an Aviva motor insurance customer but I’m not sure how it works if you insure elsewhere (you don’t have to be insured with Aviva to use the app).

Final thoughts

The dash cam on the Aviva Drive app is easy to use, quick to set up (once your cradle is in place) and free – the fact it rewards safer driving habits with an insurance discount is a nice bonus too. It’s also reassuring to know that the footage could be used as evidence and help resolve my claim more quickly if I was in an accident.

But it’s not perfect. The collision detection software is a little too sensitive (although this is better than not picking up genuine accidents) and drains my year-old Samsung 7’s battery if I’m on a long journey. Aviva recommends using an in-car phone charger for this reason.

It only records the view in front of your vehicle, so if you’re hit from behind the recording won’t be of much use (other than to prove you weren’t reversing). There’s nothing stopping you from setting it up to face the other way, but I imagine this would be a bit of a chore.

All in all, the dash cam app is a fantastic bit of in-car tech, and it’s free, so I’ll continue to use it and look forward to receiving my discount next year.

This is a sponsored article by Aviva. Find out more about the dash cam app here.

1Research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Aviva in June 2018.

2Research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Aviva in June 2018.

 
 
 
 

What does the fate of Detroit tell us about the future of Silicon Valley?

Detroit, 2008. Image: Getty.

There was a time when California’s Santa Clara Valley, bucolic home to orchards and vineyards, was known as “the valley of heart’s delight”. The same area was later dubbed “Silicon Valley,” shorthand for the high-tech combination of creativity, capital and California cool. However, a backlash is now well underway – even from the loyal gadget-reviewing press. Silicon Valley increasingly conjures something very different: exploitation, excess, and elitist detachment.

Today there are 23 active Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites in Santa Clara County, California. Its culture is equally unhealthy: Think of the Gamergate misogynist harassment campaigns, the entitled “tech bros” and rampant sexism and racism in Silicon Valley firms. These same companies demean the online public with privacy breaches and unauthorised sharing of users’ data. Thanks to the companies’ influences, it’s extremely expensive to live in the area. And transportation is so clogged that there are special buses bringing tech-sector workers to and from their jobs. Some critics even perceive threats to democracy itself.

In a word, Silicon Valley has become toxic.

Silicon Valley’s rise is well documented, but the backlash against its distinctive culture and unscrupulous corporations hints at an imminent twist in its fate. As historians of technology and industry, we find it helpful to step back from the breathless champions and critics of Silicon Valley and think about the long term. The rise and fall of another American economic powerhouse – Detroit – can help explain how regional reputations change over time.

The rise and fall of Detroit

The city of Detroit became a famous node of industrial capitalism thanks to the pioneers of the automotive age. Men such as Henry Ford, Horace and John Dodge, and William Durant cultivated Detroit’s image as a centre of technical novelty in the early 20th century.

The very name “Detroit” soon became a metonym for the industrial might of the American automotive industry and the source of American military power. General Motors president Charles E. Wilson’s remark that, “For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa,” was an arrogant but accurate account of Detroit’s place at the heart of American prosperity and global leadership.

The public’s view changed after the 1950s. The auto industry’s leading firms slid into bloated bureaucratic rigidity and lost ground to foreign competitors. By the 1980s, Detroit was the image of blown-out, depopulated post-industrialism.

In retrospect – and perhaps as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley – the moral decline of Detroit’s elite was evident long before its economic decline. Henry Ford became famous in the pre-war era for the cars and trucks that carried his name, but he was also an anti-Semite, proto-fascist and notorious enemy of organised labor. Detroit also was the source of defective and deadly products that Ralph Nader criticized in 1965 as “unsafe at any speed”. Residents of the region now bear the costs of its amoral industrial past, beset with high unemployment and poisonous drinking water.


A new chapter for Silicon Valley

If the story of Detroit can be simplified as industrial prowess and national prestige, followed by moral and economic decay, what does that say about Silicon Valley? The term “Silicon Valley” first appeared in print in the early 1970s and gained widespread use throughout the decade. It combined both place and activity. The Santa Clara Valley, a relatively small area south of the San Francisco Bay, home to San Jose and a few other small cities, was the base for a computing revolution based on silicon chips. Companies and workers flocked to the Bay Area, seeking a pleasant climate, beautiful surroundings and affordable land.

By the 1980s, venture capitalists and companies in the Valley had mastered the silicon arts and were getting filthy, stinking rich. This was when “Silicon Valley” became shorthand for an industrial cluster where universities, entrepreneurs and capital markets fuelled technology-based economic development. Journalists fawned over successful companies like Intel, Cisco and Google, and analysts filled shelves with books and reports about how other regions could become the “next Silicon Valley”.

Many concluded that its culture set it apart. Boosters and publications like Wired magazine celebrated the combination of the Bay Area hippie legacy with the libertarian individualism embodied by the late Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. The libertarian myth masked some crucial elements of Silicon Valley’s success – especially public funds dispersed through the U.S. Defense Department and Stanford University.

The ConversationIn retrospect, perhaps that ever-expanding gap between Californian dreams and American realities led to the undoing of Silicon Valley. Its detachment from the lives and concerns of ordinary Americans can be seen today in the unhinged Twitter rants of automaker Elon Musk, the extreme politics of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and the fatuous dreams of immortality of Google’s vitamin-popping director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. Silicon Valley’s moral decline has never been clearer, and it now struggles to survive the toxic mess it has created.

Andrew L. Russell, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Professor of History, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Lee Vinsel, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Virginia Tech.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.