Integrating a camera system into vehicle informatics

Integrating a camera system into vehicle informatics

A camera system makes it possible for the driver to monitor various places in the vehicle and record what is happening at the same time. Such recordings can be processed at a later time. Such a system proves very helpful in dealing with situations involving criminal acts such as assaults and fights and they lower vandalism. When it is connected to on-board electronics, e.g. the EPIS 4.0x on-board system , a system with above standard camera system control and monitoring functions is created.

Functioning of the checking, control and information system

In the November 2015 issue of „Československý dopravák“ in the „Řídicí systém vozidla ve veřejné dopravě“ article, we mentioned the possibility of integrating camera systems into vehicle informatics. A year after this article was published this integration happened in reality with one important difference – another Ethernet network was created in the vehicle – this network was dedicated to the camera system to separate camera data currents from the usual vehicle busbar data traffic. The new arrangement looks as follows:

Pic 1: New modern on-board system arrangement including a camera system in public transportation vehicles.

This picture contain a more accurate depiction of busbars in regards to depot WI-FI networks and the way of interconnecting  LTE modems and public Wi-Fi in vehicles. This separation is usually used to make the system more secure and to prevent hackers from attacking the inner vehicle network.

What are the advantages of this integration?

This camera system uses a number of new feature. These include::

  •      Intelligent LCD panel that includes standard vehicle LCDs, a recording device processing data currents from up to 10 cameras for at least 5 days and a router separating the two above mentioned Ethernet networks and thus a single universal unit has been created.
  •      Camera power supply system using Ethernet busbar switches with 48 V PoE power supply and remote control of individual ports by the intelligent LCD panel.
  •      The system is connected to a standard vehicle on-board computer that acts as a control box of the video system including logging all system states.
  •       It is possible to connect the system to a  depot Wi-Fi system, i.e. the system can be supervised remotely including downloading the needed recordings based on their timestamp.
  •     The system can be used in all types of  vehicles including joined trams where the front driver LCD automatically becomes a control unit for both trams while the rear monitor turns off and becomes just a „recording box“.

The installation scheme for joined trams is to be found in the Pic 2 and it includes all the listed advantages of this solution. The installation is based on an inner vehicle recording LCD  placed in the driver space, an intelligent switch, UTP distribution including vehicle connectors, and of course cameras.

Pic 2: An example of system installation in two joined trams.

Basic features of the system

The camera system includes the following features:

  • Storing of recordings for 5 days with automatic saving of a new recording and deletion of the oldest recording (works in a loop).
  • Recordings can be saved in time intervals, usually 10 minutes. The recordings include time information. This time information is received from an on-board system and it is synchronized with GPS clock.
  • Recordings are protected against misuse by encryption. This ensures that the recordings can only be viewed by people authorized in the system. All accesses to the system are logged by the system itself.
  • Minimum recording resolution: 800×600 (resolution is determined based on the used monitor and it is usually higher.
  • Minimum number of shots per second is 20 – given by the MP4 or AVI norms.
  • Minimum camera sensitivity is 1 Lux. If the surrounding light is lower an infrared support light turns on and the LCD changes to black and white.
  • The recording LCD unit box situated in the driver cabin is designed as a lockable safety box preventing unauthorized people from getting inside.
  • The cameras are placed in a protective casing with antivandal rendering.
  • The LCD display unit (LCD monitor) is placed in every vehicle‘s driver cabin in such a way that it does not block driver’s view while still being in driver’s field of vision.
  • The displayed content can be divided into a suitable number of parts displaying online feeds from individual cameras (1 to 4 displays at the same time).
  • The cameras in passenger areas monitor whole areas in such a way that there are no blind spots.
  • Max. camera angle: 120°
  • This system can also be used for joined vehicles.
  • Easy way of controlling the recording LCD from an on-board computer that is compatible with a mechanical keyboard if needed.

As this camera system has been utilized in vehicles with the EPIS 4.0B on-board computer, the LCDs and on-board computers have been equipped with extra functions. The EPIS system thus ensures easy control and service of this camera system. It also provides access to the vehicle Wi-Fi network to enable contactless downloading of vehicle recordings. The needed time intervals can therefore be read remotely by connecting to a superordinate system, The recordings can also be read „manually“ by connecting a notebook to the ECU communication unit, or using USB memory. All recordings are protected against misuse which is why they can only be viewed in a superordinate system (application Video-Client) that will decipher them and ensure their export for later use if needed (by the Police etc.).

Pic 3: The display of a touchscreen driver terminal EPT 4.08B in the recording LCD control mode.

Intelligent recording LCD screen

The camera system includes a vehicle single-faced LCD display unit. The core of the system of the intelligent recording unit consists of a high performance PC providing all control, monitor and communication functions. Its program is designed in such a way that an independent camera system can be set up (independent solution) or it can be integrated in the vehicle checking and information system (OIS). The PC SW can be updated manually via a lockable USB or remotely using an on-board computer.

The LCD unit can display 1 to 4 cameras while simultaneously making encrypted recordings of data currents from all the cameras in the vehicle (up to 10 cameras). Camera recording storage time is given by user demands of storage time and recording quality and it varies from 5 to 7 days of uninterrupted recording (based on the chosen storage capacity from 1 to 4 TB and the number of cameras).

One of the advantages of the control unit is the fact that it is equipped with two Ethernet ports ensuring that the camera system network is separated from the vehicle on-board network. The control unit behaves like an intelligent computer (router) and ensures the separation of these networks based on predefined rules. Thanks to its connection to the vehicle network the unit can be updated in the same way as an on-board computer. This connection also ensures the advantage of reading camera recordings from any computer network after authorization. This significantly simplifies reading of the recordings.

Pic 4: The placement of the recording LCD VCS 156A2E in a Vario LF type tram.

The LCD display unit can be equipped with an interface for connecting an external keyboard on the driver board to provide a possibility of quick switching among individual camera views. The unit can also be controlled by orders sent via an Ethernet busbar. Controlling the unit via an on-board computer is the same as via buttons.

Pic 5: Camera system control – on the left via an on-board computer, on the right via an external keyboard.

Vehicle distribution system solution

The way of supplying the system and cameras with power is another innovative point. The power supply system is similar to modern on-board systems where the on-board computer includes (controls) an intelligent power supply unit that switches individual branches in a vehicle on and off (tableaus, LCD, checking, radio station etc.). The recording LCD is therefore connected to permanent vehicle power supply and the signal START is received either from the on-board computer or from „the key“. Connection of the LCD to a permanent vehicle power supply prevents premature turning off of the system which prevents recording deterioration – the LCD switches off after recording and other processes are finished.

The recording LCD also behaves as a power supply source for the rest of the camera system – cameras and switches, i.e. the LCD itself decides when the data collection system switches on/off by turning the power supply on/off. This output for cameras is also equipped with an electronic fuse and output voltage measuring.

Data and power supply cables go to the innovated  ECU 08P2 Ethernet switch that makes it possible for the user to use the LCD to switch on +48 V up to +55 V power supply for individual outputs for cameras with the PoE system in accordance with the IEEE 802.3af type B standard. Thanks to this switch output voltage and electric current are measured. Only an UTP cable leads to individual cameras which ensures easy installation into a vehicle. The vehicle camera system uses cameras approved for railway vehicles.

Pic 6: Installation of an Ethernet switch and distribution for individual cameras in a joined tram.

Advantages of the connection to an on-board computer system

Integration of the camera system control into an on-board computer significantly broadens common functionalities, simplifies system operations and also ensures  its easy maintenance.

Thanks to these functions the following is possible:

  • Getting exact time for the camera system from an on-board computer with maximum discrepancy of a few of seconds.
  • Controlling the layout of the recording monitor and dividing it into a needed amount of sections displaying individual camera views.
  • The possibility of having the situation at vehicle doors displayed automatically when a stop is reached (the on-board computer knows stop locations) – no other camera system is needed in the vehicle.
  • The driver can use the control panel to choose which camera feeds are displayed when the vehicle is at a halt (first vehicle / second vehicle switch). – e.g. using buttons or the on-board computer control LCD.
  • Monitor brightness regulation on the control panel –  e.g. using buttons or directly from the on-board computer control LCD.
  • The camera system is working only when the vehicle is running (after starting) and max. 15 minutes when the vehicle has been shut down – it is activated by a PS output from the on-board computer.
  • Camera configuration is a part of the on-board computer and it is uniform for the whole system. It uses the possibility of setting it up as a part of data preparation for the on-board computer and having it executed automatically during night vehicle service.
  • Complete system diagnostics on the service displays of the on-board unit.
  • Saving system logs for the dispatching and the technicians in a single log
  • Remote system surveillance including remote reset.

Diagnostics and monitoring of the camera system using the on-board computer

Thanks to the connection of the camera system to an o-board computer the camera system can be configured, communicated with and diagnosed directly from the on-board computer and the state of the camera system can be saved on the on-board computer for future diagnostics. This will make the work of drivers and service technicians easier and it will also make malfunction identification simpler. The on-board computer can be used to start camera system diagnostics, restart the system and turn the cameras on or off.

Pic 7: A service menu for working with the cameras from an on-board computer.

If  system diagnostics is commenced its results are displayed on the recording LCD that displays e.g. system configuration and the state of individual features, e.g. the state of the hard drive, the control unit, the switches in the system, the connected buttons, individual cameras etc. When this option is active the allocation of cameras to individual views is displayed. This configuration is a part of the unified vehicle configuration and it servers to easily display camera views while at a stop. A special advantage is that  camera system diagnostics of the joined vehicle can be run from the front vehicle (it is not necessary to go to the joined vehicle).

Pic 8: Diagnostics on a recording LCD.

SW for working with the recordings

The camera system includes SW „Videoklient“ for working with the recordings from the camera system. The system also allows for looking at the state of the camera systems, exporting and processing recordings. Reading of the contents can be performed in two ways, remotely via the on-board computer and locally via a connected notebook. The recordings can be read from any network – on-board or camera. It is also possible to read files including camera activity logs, their addressing, hard drive state and other system operation details.

When reading the recordings, the user chooses a time interval and gets the demanded encrypted files. Every recording reading is recorded and sent to a server. If needed individual records can be exported for later use (playing them, export, etc.). to ensure that individual exports can be processed and searched for it is necessary to add a note (incident) specifying the purpose of each export.

The files can be further processed, deleted and terminated. Each incident is unequivocally identified by the system and must be terminated or deleted from the system.

The application for working with the recordings is primarily designed for identifying the needed recordings and further working with them. The system is not supposed to be used to freely and unreasonably play the recordings. Thanks to the ticketing of individual recordings each exported recording has a system number which makes it possible for the users to work with them externally.

Pic 9: System diagnostics in the video-client application for file viewing and maintenance.


Public transportation vehicle camera systems are an important security feature. Using camera systems lowers vandalism and improves personal and property safety. Thanks to the recordings other criminal acts such as thefts and assaults can be proven. The connection of the camera system to the vehicle infrastructure makes this system an active part of the vehicle that can be operated in a more complex way than when an independent system is used.