Wary drivers and savvy insurers fuel growing demand for dashcams in Japan

Kyodo

The ubiquitous appearances of dashcam crash footage in news reports and on TV shows has apparently spurred demand for in-vehicle video cameras in Japan as motorists seek additional legal protection in case of accidents.

The surge in demand has seen at least one major auto parts and accessories retailer in Tokyo’s Koto Ward set up a special section to sell and install dashcams.

“Products priced at around ¥25,000 ($225) are selling well,” a clerk there said.

An increasing number of people are installing both front and rear dashcams to record evidence in the event of traffic accidents, the clerk said. Models that activate automatically in response vehicles being hit or jolted while parked are also in growing demand.

Drivers are particularly drawn to recorders that feature clear and wide-angle images, he added.

But ordinary drivers are not the only ones recognizing the effectiveness of dashcams in collecting evidence in traffic accidents.

In September, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department introduced recorders for 314 of its patrol motorcycles and has announced plans to equip its entire 900-strong fleet with the devices by March 2019.

Shipments of recorders by domestic manufacturers totaled an estimated 1.4 million units in fiscal 2016, up 40 percent from the previous year. The products saw their popularity begin to soar around fiscal 2012, an industry insider said.

JVC Kenwood Corp. released two new models earlier this month. The DRV-N530 and DRV-R530, which are capable of recording both front and rear images at the same time, have recommended retail prices of ¥24,000 and ¥29,000, respectively.

If used together with a car navigation system, the new models can also record location data, and a rear-view image can be shown on the navigation system’s screen.

JVC Kenwood developed the models amid growing demand for onboard cameras with driver-assistance functions and high-quality images, a company representative said.

In April, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. started lending dashcams to its policyholders. The devices, developed together with Pioneer Corp., connects automatically to a Tokio Marine operator in the event of an accident. The operator can then give advice to the driver and contact authorities.

Tokio Marine plans to improve its dashcam-related gadgets in stages. Starting in October, for example, the devices will be able to warn distracted drivers if they are too close to vehicles ahead.

Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. will offer a similar service from January in a tie-up with Sohgo Security Services Co. (ALSOK). When a dashcam mounted on a policyholder’s vehicle detects a certain level of external shock, the information will be sent to the insurer’s data center so ALSOK staff can potentially be quickly dispatched to the scene of an accident.

In addition to driver-assistance functions, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa’s service will also “diagnose” policyholders’ driving skills by allowing them to review their driving online.