What You Need to Know About Factory-Installed Dash Cams

As automakers add cameras to their cars, drivers might gain limited recording capabilities.

Subaru EyeSight cameras in a 2024 Subaru Forester TouringSubaru

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There's no telling what might happen right in front of you while you're behind the wheel. Your car could potentially capture video footage containing evidence that applies to a case concerning an impatient or impaired driver. Whenever there is an adverse event that occurs on the road, there is a chance that the event was recorded by a dash cam.

Dashboard cameras have been widely available for years from aftermarket manufacturers such as Garmin, Nextbase, Nexar, and Thinkware. More recently, automakers have been including cameras with various degrees of functionality in vehicles ranging from light-duty pickup trucks to high-end luxury vehicles.

Factory-installed dash cams have become more commonplace partly because of the proliferation of driver-assist systems that must be able to "see" to operate properly. These include features such as lane-departure assist and forward-collision warning.

Cars With Built-In Dash Cams

In addition to serving as the eyes of onboard safety systems, factory-installed cameras are increasingly offering recording options for what transpires beyond the windshield. Some, like those found in Tesla models, can even be used when the vehicle is turned off. Here's a look at some offerings from mainstream automakers:

  • BMW Drive Recorder: In the case of an accident, Drive Recorder automatically saves a recording from 20 seconds before to 20 seconds after impact. The driver can also manually activate the recording function as desired.
  • General Motors: Many GM vehicles are equipped with a comprehensive set of cameras that monitor the vehicle's surroundings. They don't yet function as dash cams, but could do so with the proper software. Some vehicles, including GMC and Chevrolet pickups, can be outfitted with dealer-installed dash cams. Certain models of the Corvette Stingray are equipped with a Performance Data Recorder, which overlays data about the driver's performance onto hiqh-quality video. It can also be used as a dash cam for daily drives.
  • Mercedes-Benz Dashcam: Available on E, A, CLA, CLS, GLA, GLC, GLS, GLB, and GLE Class models, this dashboard camera can be activated at will by the driver. It can download footage to a smartphone or other USB-capable device. Recordings can be viewed on the media display screen inside the cabin when the car is stopped.
  • Subaru EyeSight: Subaru EyeSight uses two mirror-mounted cameras to guide the lane-keeping assist function, but they are also recording what's happening around the vehicle on a 22-second loop, which is helpful in the event of an accident.
  • Tesla Dashcam: Used as part of the vehicle's self-driving functionality, it can also record and store footage on a connected USB flash drive. In Sentry Mode, it can serve to alert owners that someone might be tampering with their parked car.
  • Toyota Dashcam: This is offered as an available option on the Toyota Sienna Hybrid, Venza, Prius, RAV4, Sequoia Hybrid, Camry, Highlander, Tundra, and Tacoma models. It's also available as an add-on for the Toyota 4Runner. The camera is activated by G-force sensors — even when the car is parked — and can be activated manually to record events of interest.

Limited but Important Capabilities

While factory-installed dash cams don't rival the recording capabilities of aftermarket models that can capture hours of video on a continuous loop, they can still serve important roles for drivers.

Toyota's system, for example, offers Parking Surveillance that wakes up if G-force sensors are jolted by an impact or even by someone leaning on the vehicle. Action Mode can capture special drives or track days for sharing afterward, and Accident Detection Mode uses the G-force sensors to automatically protect footage before, during, and after an incident.

Be aware that video recording is subject to privacy laws of the applicable state and/or country, and permissions regarding video recording may vary.

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Mark Elias
Mark Elias is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer who has covered the industry for the past 20 years. Along the way, he has photographed for news agencies, car manufacturers, and Fortune 500 companies. He loves playing and building guitars—but his wife will only let him have five at any one time.