We’ve all heard a lot about the autonomous and electric car races that many of the major tech players are embroiled in. The topic peppers the media every day, and everyone from Apple to Uber has a horse in the race. Tech upgrades for safety and efficiency however, are no longer limited to just new automobiles. Some high tech companies are getting into aftermarket car accessories, as well. Just this week a group of former Apple engineers announced that they’ve launched a new company called Pearl. They made their debut with a neat aftermarket back up camera, called Rear Vision, that wirelessly integrates into your phone and helps you avoid accidents while backing up.
According to a post over at CNBC and The Verge, the company has been operating in stealth mode for the last two years. They are a fairly large team—70 employees in total, 50 of who can claim Apple as their former employer. While, as CNBC points out, an aftermarket rear view camera system seems like a weak entry for a group of hot, young engineers, the device is made of high quality materials and works much like you’d expect something from the minds of a group of Apple engineers to function.
The best part of the app and aluminum frame pairing is that it wirelessly streams video to your smart phone. RearVision is connected to the OBD port in your car (the on-board diagnostics connection located under your dash near the steering wheel --all cars made after 1994 have them). The cameras embedded in the license plate frame at the back of the car turn on when you engage reverse, and turn back off when in drive. The cameras are powered by a small solar panel built into the license plate frame and the battery can store up to a month’s worth of power. You can view the camera in landscape or portrait views on your smart phone and RearVision will sound two different kinds of alarms if a pedestrian or another car crosses your path. While it won't apply the brakes for you, like many modern-day cars with cross traffic sensors will, it could help you avoid a pricey--or tragic--accident.
As CNBC points out, the elegance isn’t so much in what RearVision is, but rather in how the product works and is installed. Most rear view camera units on the market come in well below RearVisions $499 price tag (many hover near $100) but many require fairly extensive wiring, and don’t include the ability to use your smart phone as a monitor. Many also require you to carry a battery or source of power around in your trunk to make the cameras work, unlike RearVision that uses solar power to run.
The used car market is huge and Pearl recognizes that. As Pearl founder, Bryson Gardner said in the CNBC story, “There's about 7 percent of new car inventory that comes in the market every year. That leaves more than 90 percent of the cars that are not new every year. We saw the entire industry focused on new cars. So we figured let's focus on the existing install base.” This is good news for used car buyers, shoppers and owners.
Bryson alluded to not stopping with just rear view cameras, either. He also told CNBC that Pearl is working on coming to market with many of the same things you would find in the awareness package of a new Mercedes-Benz. At the base level Mercedes’ come with a safety package that includes things like rear and front collision warnings, lane departure warnings, fatigue warnings, and rear view cameras—all good news for used car buyers and owners.
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Digital media content producer/consultant & former CNN senior producer, now running CN'TRL : Cars, Tech, Real Estate & Luxury.