Janus V2 windshield mounted video/audio recorder by 3rd Eye Cam.
File photo by John Han.
For those who haven't read, on Sunday, October 30th, at about 2am, a driver of a Town Taxi struck a 22-year old bicyclist, at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Guerrero streets. The accident reportedly left the bicyclist with head injuries that are considered to be life threatening.
While the incident is tragic, it would be even more tragic to incriminate the taxi driver for running a red light, if in fact he is not guilty.
Jacob Mayzel, manager of Town Taxi, says video captured by the taxi's window mounted camera proves the taxi driver actually had a green light. Mayzel confirmed this with Taxi TownSF, but did not comment further on the accident, citing that it's investigation is not yet complete.
3rd Eye Cam is the San Francisco based company that manufactures and distributes the cameras, now mounted on the windshields of most taxicabs in the City. And while the company markets the benefits of their product mainly to owners and fleet managers, protection from cameras extends to drivers as well, as would be evidenced in the Town Taxi incident.
(As a taxi driver, I personally can also attest to the value of the Janus V2 cameras. On July 4th, 2011, I, working the holiday, was struck broadside by a driver running a red light, totaling both vehicles, but was exonerated immediately because of the camera.)
The controversy for some drivers is whether continuous video recording invades their privacy, since the cameras record not only the forward view, but inside the cab as well. Some feel strongly that that is intrusive. Others say they don't mind so much, and may even feel more secure. In my opinion, both are valid viewpoints.
"(13) (A) A video event recorder with the capability of monitoring driver performance to improve driver safety, which may be mounted in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver, in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver and outside of an airbag deployment zone, or in a five-inch square mounted to the center uppermost portion of the interior of the windshield. As used in this section, “video event recorder” means a video recorder that continuously records in a digital loop, recording audio, video, and G-force levels, but saves video only when triggered by an unusual motion or crash or when operated by the driver to monitor driver performance.
Thus far, it would seem to me that the Janus V2 cameras are for the most part in compliance with California's law. But I'm no attorney. If there are areas in which they are not, some one who knows should say so.
To drivers most adamant about privacy, I'll give it this - the law is vague and open to interpretation. For example, it says "video event recorders" may record continuously in a digital loop, but doesn't specify how long the loop may last. So if Janus V2s are set to continuously record in 48 hour or 72 hour loops or longer before recycling, it would seem to still be in compliance, since the law has no apparent maximum for loop times. I can see where that could become a privacy concern. Not everyone wants to be potentially examined every minute of their working lives.
But where the cameras may be in violation of the laws may not be in the product itself, but in the way cab companies are administering them, perhaps. For example, some cab companies have clearly communicated to their drivers that they reserve the right to terminate drivers for disabling Janus V2s.
That would strongly appear to violate the law...
"(D) The registered owner or lessee of the vehicle may disable the device."
That said, I personally will not tamper with the cameras, for reasons such as the Town Taxi incident. These cameras continue to prove their value to the industry.
However, I do not want to be audio recorded. I know some disagree. But to me, that's creepy.
Also, as a crime deterrent, it's not known how effective they are, given the concerning number of robberies committed against cab drivers this year. Because of the number of crimes this year, additional measures beyond the use of cameras should be looked at, for purposes of crime prevention.