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I am looking to equip my car with some cameras and a recorder. The specs might sound a little James Bond when you read it, but I would like to get it running without Q from the MI6, or needing their funds. :-)

I'm okay with spending some more if the constraints require it, but if there is a cheap solution that's a little worse, that might be fine too.

If something is unclear or underspecified, please let me know!

Power supply:

  • The whole thing should run 24/7, so a low power profile would be good to not drain the car battery too much.

Cameras:

  • Best would be two or three cameras inside of the car, so they are protected and "hidden", so not immediately visible. Small black box mounted on the back of the rear view mirror is okay too.
  • Night vision without extra light (only from street lamps, no IR light) would be really nice. Also highly dynamic, like reading the licence plate of a car that has lights on. Long ago I read CMOS is better suited for that than CCD, is this still the case?
  • Resolution should be recognize cars or persons in case something happens. Let's say anything that is between 5 and 20 meters away should be sharp.
  • Is this possible with a fixed lens or does it need autofocus? If it does, best would be if it works without sending a signal like a focus grid. Same as the IR lights, I just don't want to tip off thiefs or whatever that there is a camera running.
  • Cabling should be simple, so best everything on 12 volts and I think the cables to the recorder could get as long as 6-8 meters.
  • Image quality should be around one mega pixels for "normal" 4:3 or 16:9 cameras. Or what would be even better, if it is wide angle around 2-3 mega pixels.
  • I thought about two wide angle cameras or four normal ones, so around 4-6 mega pixels in total.
  • Monochrome image is okay.

Recorder:

  • No display needed.
  • Data from all cameras should be stored 24/7 and maybe one week.
  • Should connect to the wireless network while I am near home and record the data directly onto a home server and transfer all recorded data too.
  • Data processing should happen on the home server to reduce power consumption in the car, like which images changed at all or compression algorithms.
  • I thought about a raspberry pi, but only know the open circuit boards. If there is a version with full housing that would be perfect. Or specialized recorder hardware, whatever works.
  • If multiple cameras is too much for one recorder, multiple recorders might be good too so each can use shorter cables.

Storage:

  • Should survive shocks during car rides, so a spinning disk might be bad, but with 3 images per second(?!) that should be around 10 tera bytes of SSD??

Weather:

  • Not sure if the camera should be in the car or outside, one would need weather protection, the other something to work when the windshield is fogging.
  • Temperature is usually -10°C to 40°C here, but if the car parks longer in the sun, it could go up to 90°C?

If this is too much for one question, I could also split it up?

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    Just curious...where are you parking your car that it is reaching 90C? – Andy Nov 1 '15 at 2:21
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    @Andy: I read an artical about not keeping animals in the car, that the "room" temperature goes up to 60°C and they used a grey car, so I figured that the black parts probably get a lot hotter? – NotJamesBond Nov 1 '15 at 3:43
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    I think power is going to be your main limiting factor. Run all this stuff off your car's battery and you'll be unable to start the motor after a day. I think you'd be better putting cameras outside the car and monitoring it via POE cabling. – Criggie Nov 5 '15 at 9:24
  • @Criggie: But shouldn't low power equipment last longer? If I used the camera on my iPhone I don't think it would drain the whole car battery? Just for explanation, I live on the eight floor and the street is 100 m away and usually I park another 200-500 m from there, so cabling that distance would be pretty hard. Lots of trees, so most of the time there is no line of sight either. – NotJamesBond Nov 12 '15 at 16:19
  • I would be also happy for a partial recommendation for the cameras, I think from there the rest can be figured out somehow, but I have no clue how to find out which camera works at night without extra IR leds or similar. – NotJamesBond Nov 12 '15 at 16:23
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Just to identify some issues with your setup:

Power supply: The whole thing should run 24/7, so a low power profile would be good to not drain the car battery too much.

Running it at night requires an IR LED to be on. Being able to see 20m would require this LED to be insanely bright, hence not very low-power. If you want to use only street lights, you would be better off with setting up a Raspberry Pi device to take long-exposure photos at set intervals, instead of a video. Then, long exposure means you can forget the clarity requirement. Again, the power requirements would be immense; I recommend EV batteries to run this, since they typically have a quite high power-to-weight ratio. Maybe two or three, if you're going to be gone a week at a time: depends how you set up the rest of the peripherals. So, also forget about being low-cost.

Cameras: Cabling should be simple, so best everything on 12 volts and I think the cables to the recorder could get as long as 6-8 meters.

Again, keep in mind that, the longer the cable, the more the voltage depression. I ran 3-meter-long cables in my car, and already I had to run them 8-gauge to be able to run my equipment without problem at 40 degrees C. They'd need to be even thicker to work at 90 degrees.

Should connect to the wireless network while I am near home and record the data directly onto a home server and transfer all recorded data too.

I believe this directly contradicts your requirement best would be if it works without sending a signal. And again, you'd have a lot of programming to do, to make this work with the Raspberry Pi. No general-purpose recording software will be developed with such attributes, until the market for it is large enough.

Storage: Should survive shocks during car rides, so a spinning disk might be bad, but with 3 images per second(?!) that should be around 10 tera bytes of SSD??

Yes. Keep in mind that most SSD's cannot be even stored at 90 degrees without losing their data -- much less working at those temperatures. And spinning disks use too much electricity. I should also mention that, typical EV batteries quickly degrade at temperatures higher than 40 degrees Celcius, except there is a high-temperature version of Saft EV batteries I've been able to find, which costs over ten thousand dollars per block. In other words, the cost to make this setup work adds up.

If you happen to find a way to decrease your requirements to make this setup more realistic, I will be glad to help out with actual product recommendations. For now, I believe your post is more hypothetical than practical.

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  • What if the user added a device to start the car at a set temperature, and/or a set battery level. Thus bringing those 2 aspects under control. A 10k battery is the equivalent of a lot of gasoline, which would no longer be needed. – cybernard Dec 14 '18 at 18:57
  • What do you mean by, at a set temperature? – Alex Dec 15 '18 at 21:49
  • "set temperature". If the car reaches say 90F, the car is automatically started with the air conditioner running until it goes back to 70F. Obviously, 90F is an arbitrary "set temperature", could be anything. Also if car battery has %20 (or etc) start the car to charge the battery. – cybernard Dec 16 '18 at 16:18
  • Then yes, this would work. Albeit be very expensive. The most expensive expected component is, programming the synchronization on the Raspberry Pi ("no signal sent" means network has to be disabled; therefore, to synchronize, you'd have to turn on network, detect the right WiFi signal, set up FTP connection, and only then synchronize), and the cost of rechargeable car batteries (they'd be getting a lot of cycles, quick). Cost of gasoline would be the next cost factor. – Alex Jan 13 '19 at 22:30
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    Most hybrids have a tiny engine solely for producing electricity, maybe if you add one of those, even if you have to put it in the trunk, it would help reduce fuel costs. Instead of running the whole engine to just charge the battery or batteries. – cybernard Jan 18 '19 at 4:37

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