Hard-Wiring A Dash Cam
Dash cam footage from Russia is quite popular here in the U.S. We're constantly amazed at the situations that get captured when a camera is constantly recording. The phenomenon of actually using a dash cam hasn't really caught on yet, and there aren't many mainstream brands selling the devices locally. Garmin is the only one I can think of with a retail presence. Everything else seems to come from Chinese manufacturers selling cheaper equipment.
I sourced a potential contender from Papago!, a Taiwanese company trying to establish itself in the U.S. market. Originally, Papago! sent me a P2 Pro that I briefly auditioned in the Mazda5. But having the display always visible became an annoying distraction. I'm also particular about clean installations, and don't want to see the device unless it's in use. That meant the P2 Pro wouldn't satisfy my aesthetic requirements.
Eventually, Papago! provided us with an early version of its GoSafe Wi-Fi dash cam that instead relies on a smartphone app for display output. It's roughly the size of a GoPro, and small enough to conceal behind your rear-view mirror. There's a good chance you won't even notice it from the driver's seat, yet the camera's buttons and microSD card slot remain accessible.
What makes a dash cam different from standard action cameras is an automatic recording function. The GoSafe Wi-Fi starts rolling as soon as it turns on, and deletes old video that isn't archived. You can tap the emergency file protection button on the side of the GoSafe Wi-Fi to prevent files from being overwritten. Lastly, there’s a three-axis accelerometer that triggers a backup feature, saving footage one minute before and after an accident when the dash cam detects an impact.
Other notable features include a 1/2.8” Sony Exmor 2.4 MP image sensor paired with a bright and wide F/1.9 136-degree lens. It supports 802.11n in client and AP modes, records 1080p30 in AVCHD with a .TS file container, and records to microSDHC.
As with all dash cams, a standard cigarette lighter power adapter is included, which you'd typically let dangle. Again, I'm not a fan of sloppy or temporary-looking installations, so I hardwired the GoSafe Wi-Fi to the Mazda5's ignition, powering it whenever the car is running. I used another USB adapter from EDO Tech Supply, this time for mini-USB, since Papago! has yet to adapt micro-USB.
Getting the dash cam wired up was a bit trickier than the wireless charger due to its location. Of course, I started by disconnecting the car's battery. My Mazda5 also has side curtain airbags that deploy from the headliner, so I needed to be extra cautious removing the A-pillar trim panel and running wire.
Although I was able to tap the cigarette lighter for the wireless charger, the dash cam needed power from a difference source. Fortunately, the instructions for installing Mazda's auto-dimming rear-view mirror are freely available online. It taps the switched ignition power line from the ECU, making it easier to track down the 12 V wire.
The leads on EDO Tech's mini-USB adapter weren't long enough to reach the passenger foot well, so I had to extend them with some extra 12-gauge wire, a soldering iron, and heat-shrink tubing.
We tapped the switched ignition wire and connected ground to the chassis. With our wiring, the GoSafe Wi-Fi only receives power when the ignition is in the on position. There was a moment there, after getting everything hooked back up, when I turned the key to accessory power and panicked because the dash cam didn't come on. After realizing the wire I tapped only has power when the key is turned to on, I couldn't help but face-palm.
Tidying up the install only required a couple of zip ties. I used gray automotive double-sided tape to secure the USB adapter's power brick to the bottom of the A-pillar, and it didn't interfere with the trim piece at all. With the wiring sufficiently clean, I put the panels back in place and stepped back to admire my work.
Video quality from the GoSafe Wi-Fi is good. Sony's Exmor sensor resolves enough detail to read license plates, which is all you really need from a dash cam. Since it automatically records when the car is on, you don't have to worry about missing those odd moments when you spot another driver doing something idiotic. There’s also a dedicated image capture button. Just try not to be creepy about using it.