“Owners could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law…”

By Simon Cohen.  August 12, 2015

That near-miss accident on the freeway or comet streaking past your windshield? These days, the news and Facebook feeds are littered with “caught on dashcam” footage. But dashcams aren’t just for capturing sensational YouTube-worthy moments. A new breed of cam turns your car into a rolling surveillance platform.

LyfeLens is essentially a spy system for vehicles. It comes with two cameras and a microphone that continuously records while you’re in the driver’s seat — and when you’re not — and then uploads the resulting photos and video footage to the cloud. It also acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot and can send push notifications. Its onboard GPS and ability to connect to the Internet means you can access the two cameras remotely, and in real time, through your smartphone or Web browser.

If a thief breaks into your vehicle … “you’ve got that guy on camera.”

LyfeLens co-founder Allen Stone

Why would you want to do that? Say you’ve lent your car to your teen. LyfeLens will send you a notification if they exceed the speed limit or drive somewhere they aren’t allowed to go. You can also call up a live stream, viewing everything the LyfeLens can see. If a thief breaks into your vehicle, the motion sensors will catch him in the act — and even if he damages or removes the LyfeLens, “you’ve got that guy on camera,” says co-founder Allen Stone. He and Niko Stoenescu created LyfeLens, which is based in Austin, Texas, in 2014. The system is available for the pre-order price of $299, with data plans between $20 and $30 per month, which include 2GB of streaming and 30GB of cloud storage, and will work anywhere there is a 4G LTE or 3G network.

Surprisingly, given all the benefits of dashcams, Americans have been much slower than Europeans and Asians to adopt them. But Cam Woolley, a traffic specialist and former sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police, says that “these days, some kind of camera is a must-have.” Fraud alone could justify using one, Woolley says, since even in so-called no-fault insurance jurisdictions, rates are still determined by who was at fault.

But buyers take note: LyfeLens is a lot more expensive than other models that offer most of the same basic features — and its true benefits can be enjoyed only if you pony up the monthly data fees. Also, it’s not the most discreet design, which might reduce its effectiveness.

Is it legal? Owners could quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law if they leave the device’s default settings in place, says Ken Padowitz, a Fort Lauderdale-based attorney. Recording audio without knowledge or consent “may violate criminal wiretap laws in a number of states,” he explains. Its recordings are admissible as evidence in court, but Padowitz worries that this could backfire on the owner “if recorded evidence showed that the LyfeLens owner was at fault for an accident.”

For those who have done their legal homework, you can pre-order it now before it hits retail.

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