This is why the C7 Corvette, built as late as Nov. 2019, only comes with a 720P PDR camera.
Because GM made the C7 Corvette well into the late 2019s, I was curious to know why video, shared by C7 owners, courtesy of their Performance Data Recorders, only had 720P resolution.
According to AndroidAuthority, the first consumer grade smart phone with 1080P video recording technology came out in 2010 with the LG Optimus 2X. So why, when GM’s Corvette Team was developing the C7 Corvette, couldn’t they stick in a better camera for the C7 Corvette? And can owners today upgrade said 720P cameras?
The quick answer is yes, Corvette’s developmental team could’ve stuck better cameras inside, but there are good reasons they didn’t and you probably can’t upgrade up to 1080P.
First, you have to understand GM’s 720P high definition front-facing cameras isn’t just a camera, it’s a part of a sophisticated video, audio, and telemetry recording system called the Performance Data Recorder.
Developed with Cosworth, the British motorsports-engineering company that supplies Corvette Racing with telemetry equipment, the PDR system is a motorsports technology developed for consumer use.
The PDR comprises a 720P High-def camera, in-cabin microphone, a self-contained telemetry recorder (hard-wired into the vehicle’s Controller Area Network CAN BUS), and a SD-card slot for recording and transferring video.
Underneath the C7’s floorboards is the PDR Module with a processer (stats unknown) combining video, audio, and telemetry data in real-time and outputting that combined data stream for use through said SD memory card slot.
Understanding that all these systems; video, audio, and telemetry, are talking to each other, and you begin to see why replacing the front camera with a better one isn’t exactly plug and play.
Steve Wesolowski, part of the Cosworth development team tasked with creating the PDR, actually gave a statement on the matter at the 2014 National Corvette Museum annual bash. When asked if they’re going make the 720P camera upgradeable to 1080P at some point, Wesolowski responded,
“We (Cosworth) made the conscience decision to go 720P because it’s the file size. It gets considerably larger when you go much bigger. And for a camera that was automotive grade, to pass environmental and all the other tests we had to do, that was the best camera we could find for dollar, capability, and file size and that’s why we chose that.”
“I think if you looked at the video, you’d be hard-pressed to see where added resolution really made much of a difference”
And, when further pressed if the PDR system could be upgraded in the future, he answered, “it could possibly.”
Not satisfied with Cosworth’s blanket statement, forum members on CorvetteForum.com brought up noteworthy points.
Considering how consumer grade 1080P cameras where just coming out and combining that with what Cosworth mentioned, sourcing an automotive grade camera, engineering in a 1080P camera that could withstand the abuse of lifetime car ownership with occasional track use would make the Corvette that much more expensive.
“The camera is just part of the system. It uses an uncommon LVDS interface. Your first two hurdles are finding a camera that fits , and communicates over LVDS. Then you need to hack the PDR module. Once that’s done, you’re going to need to reverse engineer the Cosworth PDR application that ties all the hardware and drivers together to create a usable interface. You’re going to need to figure out how to patch it to deal with the higher resolution video . Video playback, graphic overlays, output to the SD card, etc.”
“This all assumes that the application processor could even handle the higher density video stream to begin with. It’s an 8+ year old chip that wasn’t exactly a powerhouse to begin with.”
So, could you upgrade the 720P camera on your own? As mentioned, maybe, if you had the knowhow. But, as Wesolowski hints at, you’d be hard-pressed to see benefit from such marginal gains in resolution.
If your goal is to get faster on-track, the PDR system, as is, 720P video and all, is just about as good as it gets.
If your goal is to impress your friends with crisp 1080P HD video, it’s easier to suction cup on the latest GoPro.