My parents used to say that they had eyes in the back of their heads, hoping my sisters and I would think twice before goofing off in the car (insert eyeroll). But parents today aren’t lying; two minivans on the market offer in-cabin cameras, helping caregivers keep tabs on backseat shenanigans.
The Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey — both updated for model-year 2021 — offer camera-based systems that display views of the second and third rows on the first row’s multimedia screen. They each work a little differently. Here’s a look at how:
The Odyssey was the first minivan with an in-cabin camera system, which debuted on the 2018 model, and CabinWatch gets a lot right. It uses a ceiling-mounted camera above the first row to show front-seat occupants the back passengers, day or night, on the van’s Display Audio multimedia screen. It’s a useful way to quickly check up on the kids without stealing too much focus from the road. The way the camera is positioned allows you to see kids in forward-facing car seats better than those in rear-facing car seats, however. Turning it on is easy via a camera icon on the side of the touchscreen, and you can zoom in to make the picture larger.
One bonus feature of this system is that for 2021, it’s connected to the Rear Seat Reminder system. In addition to the audible and text warnings to check the backseats, in uplevel Touring and Elite trims, Rear Seat Reminder uses the CabinWatch camera to display an image of the rear seats (and what you may have left in them). The Rear Seat Reminder system is standard across all Odyssey trims, but the CabinWatch system is only on uplevel Touring and Elite trims.
Chrysler added its FamCam system to the Pacifica in the van’s 2021 update. It, too, uses a camera in the cabin to display images from the second and third row on the van’s Uconnect multimedia screen. It’s a little different from Honda’s setup, however, using a wide-angle camera mounted on the ceiling just behind the second row. Like Honda’s system, it provides a clear view of all seats — night or day — but the user is looking at the back of the second-row occupants and gets a top view of the third-row occupants. Since my kids in the second row are now in boosters, this view wasn’t as helpful. For caregivers with infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats, though, this view would be great.
While you can’t zoom into a specific seat in the traditional sense of the word, FamCam does have a “zoom-to-seat” function. Tap on a seat and a zoomed in image of that seat is displayed next to the rest of the cabin on the screen. Enabling the system is easy, provided you know where to go — the FamCam button is in the Car menu on the Uconnect screen. It’s standard on the line-topping Pinnacle trim and available on all but the base Touring trim in the Uconnect Theater Family Package.
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One reason families opt for a minivan over an SUV or large sedan is because of the long list of available conveniences features vans offer, and in testing both models, I’ve found in-cabin cameras earned a spot on that list — it just depends on how you use them. While I like Uconnect in general more than Honda’s Display Audio system from an overall usability standpoint, FamCam’s rear-facing orientation is less helpful for my family since my kids are in forward-facing car seats than Honda’s forward view camera. Both systems give you eyes in the back of your head — your audience will determine just how useful they are.
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