In Russia, there's a lot of insurance fraud on the road. People pretend they've been hurt by a driver to collect insurance money or to blackmail drivers into a quick bribe, so a lot of people have started installing dash cameras in their cars to have evidence (which can potentially save them a lot of money and even sometimes prison time). Here's a compilation of attempted fraud that was prevented by these cameras:
The idea behind the Rideye is conceptually similar, and came to its creator Cedric Bosch after a friend was injured on his bike. While the idea of recording your ride isn't new (lots of people do it with GoPro cameras, like this cyclist who was attacked by a driver), there isn't a user-friendly, always-on, reliable solution that most cyclists can get yet.
Why is this needed? Well, even if most drivers are diligent, those who aren't make the roads dangerous for everybody, including cyclists (how about the driver who texted 44 times before almost killing a cyclist?). If there's an accident, you often end up with one person's word against the other. That's why having a camera on your bike that records everything that happens in a loop, and that can detect when there's an accident (or you press a button) and saves the past 2 hours of footage and positional data can change everything.
What if there's a hit and run and you can clearly see the car's license plate in the video? What if there's an accident where the driver claims that it's the cyclist that is at fault but you can clearly see on the video that the driver was criminally reckless? What if, kittens forbid, a cyclist is killed and there's no third-party witness to say what happened? The driver might be in a conflicted situation and his account of events might not be reliable... So a bike 'black box' sounds extremely useful on that level.
Here's what the footage looks like (this was taken by a prototype):
But there's also another level where this work, a more psychological one. When people know they're watched, they behave better. That's a simple fact of life. Stores without security cameras will get more theft than those that do, police officers that have to wear tiny cameras on their uniforms don't get as many complaints, etc.
On that level, I think that if something like the Rideye became commonplace, it could make the road safer for cyclists. Of course, we can't rely just on that; we need better infrastructure, better education of cyclists and drivers, etc. But this can't hurt.
Here's some media coverage from last year, when the project was first launched on Kickstarter (the first units are supposed to ship this month):
Here's more recent coverage from a FOX affiliate in Chicago. It also includes an interview with Cedric Bosch, the creator of Rideye:
Here's all the geeky details:
The Rideye is only available for preorder now, with the cheapest model going for $139. If you want, you can get two as a combo at a discount (one on the handlebar, one mounted to the seat post) to get an almost 360 degrees view around your bike as you ride.
When will it ship? The site's FAQ says: "Rideye is currently in production and is scheduled to ship in November 2014."