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40

Auto Witness, a Windows Phone 8 solution for documenting traffic accidents

Auto Witness

Auto Witness is an interesting Windows Phone 8 app that could come in handy should you find yourself in a traffic accident. Auto Witness is a video recording app that sets up on a loop and saves your video automatically if a rapid acceleration or deceleration is detected. The app can also automatically save the videos to your OneDrive account.

The Windows Phone 8 app was chosen as runner-up in the 2014 Nokia Create Competition (Freestyle Master Category) and while it does a nice job of recording your travels, there are a few downsides.

Auto Witness Layout

The layout for Auto Witness is straightforward with controls on your camera view to start recording, review previous recordings and access the app’s settings.

Auto Witness Viewfinder

The idea is to have your Windows Phone securely in a dash or window mount to allow you to record your travels as you drive down the road. Should a car run a run light or otherwise cause you to be in a traffic accident, you have a video recording of the incident. As far as the view from the car mounts, I did find that dash mounted cradles provided a better view of the road. The view from the windshield mounts was often partially obscured by the base of the mount.

Auto Witness Settings

Settings for Auto Witness include.

  • Audio recording: For those who prefer silent movies to the talkies.
  • Sensitivity: This value sets the sensitivity for the auto-save feature. If your Windows Phone senses an abrupt stop or rapid acceleration, Auto Witness will automatically save the video footage.
  • Videos Resolution: If you need to conserve space on your Windows Phone or OneDrive, Auto Witness resolution settings can be as low as 160x120. HD recording is supported.
  • Before Save Duration: This is the maximum amount of video recording to save before an incident is detected.
  • After Save Duration: This setting dictates the amount of extra video recording to save after an incident has been detected.
  • Sync: Here is where you setup Auto Witnesses integration with OneDrive. It should be noted that the first three videos saved to OneDrive are free. After that you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version that will cost $1.29 to allow unlimited uploads to OneDrive.

Auto Witness notes in the Windows Phone Store description that it has loop recording to save space on your Windows Phone. However, it is not noted how long the loop time is.

Performance

For the most part, Auto Witness performed as advertised. The on-screen layout is simple and the manual record button is easy to access while moving down the road. Tapping anywhere on the screen will manually save the recording.

The auto save feature worked fine with both rapid acceleration and deceleration triggers. The only downside to the auto save feature (or manual save for that matter) is that while the video will resume recording after things are saved, there is about a four-second gap where recording is paused to allow for the file to be saved. I’m not if there is a work around to this gap or not but you can miss a lot in four seconds.

Overall Impression

Auto Witness does a nice job of things but it isn’t without a few downsides. For starters, you have the gap created when the video is saved. Next up, to take advantage of Auto Witness it has to be running. This essentially locks up your Windows Phone while driving and prevents you from having access to your maps, phone, etc. Having the video camera running constantly will likely require you to have your Windows Phone connected to a power source.

Auto Witness Video Library and Upgrade Option

I like the concept of Auto Witness and can see it coming in handy during rush hour commutes, while teaching a child how to drive (great for reviewing their performance) or if you are accident-prone and the insurance company has problems believing your story. I just don’t know how practical Auto Witness will be to use every time you get behind the wheel.

I do not know if it is possible to run the video camera in the background, but that might make Auto Witness more practical for full-time use. The auto-save and auto-upload features could come in handy if you are involved in a serious accident and physically are unable to get to your Windows Phone.

All in all, Auto Witness has potential and I can see it being a useful tool fore certain occasions. Auto Witness is a free app (three video upload limit) that is available for Windows Phone 8 devices. To enjoy unlimited uploads, you will need to make an in-app upgrade to the Pro version.

You can find Auto Witness here in the Windows Phone Store.

QR: Auto Witness

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Reader comments

Auto Witness, a Windows Phone 8 solution for documenting traffic accidents

40 Comments

Same here. Inconceivable. 

After I bought the CR200 for its wireless charging feature I found out I couldn't use Road Vision anymore. Same app concept of a traffic/safety camera. I'm hoping the 930's camera will be a little higher up.

 

As for the Road Vision app, I really missed the on-screen GPS speed indication which is so perfect in Here Drive. The above app also doesn't seem to have the tap-screen-to-save feature that I used to save near misses or other noteworthy traffic situations with.

Of course you can always just slam the brakes if you want to save a moment ;)

The Aduro wasn't strong enough to hold my heavy 920, and I've heard nothing but disappointment about the Nokia mount. I think I'll have to hold off on the dream of mounting my phone to the dashboard till I get a lighter phone!!

I'm not so sure that having your phone on constantly and also charging getting hotter and hotter, whilst also requiring you to set up the app every time you drive and also not be able to use it as a sat nav is a good substitute for a dedicated dash mounted camera, which not only also records the rear view (the most common kind of accident), but that also starts recording automatically with engine start and can be mounted at the top of the windscreen behind the mirror to avoid blocking your view and are available for only £30...

iOS has had these same apps for ages and they don't take off, there's too much hassle involved in setting it up everytime you get in the car.

I have the cr200 and the NFC feature is completely pointless, if it was a case of putting the phone in the cradle and having it activate then perhaps I'd see the point of the NFC, but the whole bashing the phone against it to do anything seems silly, if you bash it hard enough you tilt the cradle out of position (which is already used enough to position due to its severely limited angles of adjustment), and if you don't bash it hard enough nothing happens. No implementation with a phone is going to be more convenient than a cheap standalone recorder, that once its installed you can forget about forever. Most people who download this app will have stopped using it after a week, if that.

(Oh and the Cr200 only just fits the 1520, but unless you have a people carrier you wont be able to mount it on the windscreen, again due to its limited angles, I've had to screw a plate onto the dash to suck it on to.)

Nice idea, great implementation, but impractical to use unless you were expecting to get into an accident. This would be better on a dedicated device instead of a smart phone with so many other uses.

yes, agree... also in my 20 years driver experience, i doubt in usefulnes of app because when app detect rapid acceleration or deceleration, most important moments for recording is passed.

You missed the part about how it is recording a loop, and saves a period of time before and after the save-triggering event.

Be careful, it's not allowed everywhere to permanently record traffic. Courts may not be permitted to account for these recordings.
Anyway, anybody considering a dashcam should inform him/herself about local law before using it.

Well perhaps not in North Korea, but most people should be fine :) Courts may not use it, but the insurance companies will preventing it getting to court in the first place. I wouldn't expect anyone will use this app, but I have a real dash cam, as does my other half, who got rear ended recently, normally that's automatically the rear drivers fault, but she claimed that her car was stolen... So we emailed in the recording (always get a cam the also records the rear view), and now the claim has gone through as non fault on our insurance and the other driver has lost her no claims and has been charged with fraud :)

And they provide a lot of entertaining viewing from cows being dumped out of a semi in traffic to military jets buzzing highways.

I like that my phone can function as a dashcam, but I won't be able to text/play with my phone when I'm driving if it's in a mount. /jk

Anyone got ideas what would be the best craddle to use this app? I got the Nokia CR-200 with Qi charging but that thing really covers up the camera. I've tried sliding it to have the camera accessible but then the Qi part doesn't work... Forgot to mention I use Lumia 925.

I wrote a similar app months ago called Dash Recorder which is free. It stamps time, location, and speed too

In the area where you really need it, your windshield will be broken and the phone will be gone. Is impractical but not the fault of the developer tho.

That's doesn't even sound like a good idea. Why would your phone be running all the time to capture and accident unless you are searching for an accident

Is there anyone of the developers here?
I'd like to know how did they manage to save just the last x seconds of the video because I've been trying to figure it out for months!

Hello, I'm one of the devs. We just use a buffer to record and save whatever we find in  that buffer plus the seconds configured to be saved after an incident. So that's why there's no guarantee you'll actually get X seconds before the crash if the buffer just happened to recycle then you're out of luck. Ideally would be to have a circular buffer and actualy guarantee the X seconds prior to a crash but the platform doesn't help us much in that direction.

This is where the concept of Cortana can really shine if taken to the next level. The OS needs the ability to access an app like this with a set of parameters and use Cortana as the interface. Such as,"Cortana, turn on Auto Witness whenever my phone connects with my car Bluetooth. Cortana, turn off Auto witness whenever my phone disconnects with my car Bluetooth." For this app specifically, the ability to record in background is pretty much a necessity but I don't the the OS currently allows that.

What happens to the recording when there is an incoming call?

We will look into ways of integrating with Cortana because it would be awesome to have something similar to what you've described. Indeed the OS doesn't let us run the recoding in the background and that's a shame since it's one of the most frequent feature requests we get. Every time the user navigates away from the app and it gets out of the foreground the recording gracefully stops and that's what would happen in your use case.

@Sam Sabri,
What is the name of the back cover (YELLOW) shown in the 1st image?

I am looking for it on amazon and ebay but can find one alike. Please help me out.