Legislating Innovation - Part 1 DriveCam

barriers-to-innovationThere is a bill which just passed the California Senate regarding video cameras in cars and it appears to have gotten the attention of a number of people – for the wrong reasons I think.

The bill is AB1942 and you can find the current amended text here

There are two ways to read this, the first is that government is now going to allow spying on people with these recorders. That is the wrong way. The second is that now the placement of those recorders is going to be legal. That is the right way.

There are a number of companies which have been making these devices for years. DriveCam is one that I’ve had an opportunity to get to know. They make devices which are remarkably similar to the devices described in the bill… and apparently, up until now, it would appear that the placement of those devices was not legal. Nor is the placement of many of those taxi video cams which record passengers. The primary use of these devices is to improve safely and mitigate risk for companies which have a fleet of vehicles. The information gathered varies, but as described, the device records continously into a buffer. When an incident occurs, the data (speed, accelerometer readings, video etc.) leading up to the incident and for a short period after is stored into a permanent location. In effect, these things are just like airplane “black boxes” (flight recorders) but for automobiles.

I don’t know what happened up to now with these devices, but the bill appears to make an exception for the locations where these things are commonly mounted. Someone must have gotten a ticket. In this case, the current law was a barrier to this sort of invention.

The motivation for this legislation seems very different from the legislation that a company called SawStop tried to get enacted several years ago. SawStop had a new and patented technology which immediately stops saw blades when they come in contact with conductive materials (like human flesh) and faced with slow sales began a campaign to get their technology mandated by safety standard. In the SawStop case, the legislation was intended to be a barrier to other competitors. It was quite an interesting story and I’ll cover it in Part 2.

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