Hertz is installing car cams that point at drivers

Unbeknownst to some drivers, Hertz has been upgrading its "NeverLost" onboard navigation assistant with a tiny internal cameras.

Over the past year, Hertz has been installing inward-facing video cameras in about 12% of its rental vehicle fleet as part of an upgrade to the NeverLost onboard navigation system.

Hertz has yet to activate the 60,000 cameras it has installed and said there's no software behind them, yet. They're simply unused hardware.

"The camera's inoperable," said Richard Broome, a Hertz spokesperson. "This is the sixth generation of those [telematics] units and we wanted to upgrade them primarily to put touchscreen functionality in there. People love that."

NeverLost 6 is powered by the Magellan SmartGPS Eco OS and uses Magellan's cloud-based connected car service platform. Drivers can use the telematics system to aggregate location content and choose what content they want to display on board.

At the same time, Hertz decided to add a video conferencing capability aimed at allowing drivers or passengers to hit a button and bring up a Hertz representative to address any problems.

"We installed it because it made economic sense at the time, but we didn't have firm plans to implement it, and we still don't," Broome said. "So it's unclear if and when we're going to go ahead with this.

"We'd have to see whether there'd be customer acceptance of it, and you'd be weighing the convenience of video conferencing...against the privacy concerns some people have," he added.

Hertz began installing the sixth generation of the NeverLost head unit in dashboards last summer, and Broome said the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive about the touchscreen functionality.

"We've had at most a handful of comments about the camera lens," Broome said.

Broome said that if Hertz enables the camera functionality, it will remain a feature that only drivers and passengers can activate with a touchscreen button. Additionally, the camera can physically be rotated with a dial to face inward toward the dashboard and away from passengers in the vehicle to ensure privacy, he said.

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