My son was sitting in the back of a 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite minivan (base price of $29,990), and he had no idea what was about to happen. Using a new feature called CabinWatch, I was able to monitor my two kids in the back of the vehicle. A screen shows a wide-angle view, and you can tap the touchscreen to zoom in on any part of the video image in real time.
Then, things got interesting.
When I pushed the CabinTalk button, I started using a Darth Vader voice — think the scene from Tommy Boy where the main character talks into a fan. It’s amazing how alert everyone in the minivan became suddenly, not knowing this was a feature in the Honda — or any vehicle I’ve tested in the past five years or so. Interestingly, you can also hear what they say even in the second-row seats. And, when you talk, you can pick an option to use the speakers or interrupt their movie and speak through the headphones. When you do, the video they are viewing also pauses.
My kids are well-behaved, but I can see where a parent might use this feature to keep tabs on anyone in the back seats with this visual and audio monitoring system. Thankfully, it wasn’t too distracting. I could press the CabinTalk button and then focus on the road. My wife glanced at the screen a few times as well when we were on a longer drive.
It’s easy to imagine how much fun we had with CabinTalk. In a few cases, especially when I drove around with my nephew in the back, it was handy because we could discuss where we wanted to eat lunch without the typical “can you hear me now?” problems.
This is the first Honda to use its own Wi-Fi hotspot, and when we tested this feature, it became more obvious how a true helicopter parent might check on their kids — you can check the screen and see which device they are using and even visually inspect which app they’re using. I see CabinWatch and CabinTalk as deterrents mostly. Your kids know you can keep an eye on them.
Unlike monitoring systems that exist to check a lane or behind the vehicle, the interior-focused CabinView works at any speed. (Even on several other Honda makes and models, the live feed of the side angle when you change lanes or make a turn only works for a short time.)
At the 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite site, the CabinWatch feature page shows a small child in a car seat facing the opposite direction (as required), demonstrating that you can get a pretty good overhead view of a baby. This helps with peace of mind while driving. It also hints at how cars will work in the future, maybe showing a live feed of a crib at home or allowing you to hold a quick Skype call from the touchscreen in the backseat. Cars will become much more connected to each other, the surroundings, and other cars. Soon, we’ll be able to have a video chat with another driver, maybe someone who is part of a road trip convoy to a family vacation.
For now, the internal monitoring worked great — I liked how simple the controls were, letting the driver use them without fumbling around. It’s one step forward for connected cars.