Apple Alums Dream Up a $500 Backup Camera for Your Clunker
Each year, drivers going in reverse kill 200 people and injure 15,000 more, most of them very young or very old. Backup cameras go a long way toward preventing these accidents, which is why the government says every new car must have one by May, 2018. Great! But that doesn’t do anything for the 250 million cars already on the road.
Granted, anyone with a little time and money can add a camera to any ol’ hoopty. But it’s a hassle, what with the camera and the cable and all that wiring. A bunch of Apple veterans have a better idea: Why not use your smartphone?
“While much of the industry is focused on bringing new car features to new cars, we believe everyone deserves access to the latest technology,” says Bryson Gardner.
Gardner is the CEO and co-founder of Pearl, which developed an ingenious system that uses Wi-Fi to send video from two HD cameras in a license plate frame to your phone via a dongle in your car’s OBD-II port. It’s pricey at $500, but if you’ve got 10 minutes and a screwdriver, installing it is a DIY job.
Software written by engineers at Geo Semi converts the cameras’ 180-degree fisheye view into a rectilinear image easily adjusted to account for the height of your bumper. If a kid, a shopping cart, or anything else pops up behind you, the dongle dings. If you’re about to back into a wall, it buzzes madly. The camera shuts off once you’re rolling forward at 10 mph, and over-the-air updates keep everything current.
The hardware is handsome and the UI sharp, but then you’d expect that from Apple alums. Gardner worked in product development on the iPod and several iPhones, and 50 of the company’s 70 employees came from Cupertino. The company plans to start shipping the camera in September.
Gardner is already thinking about how to bring more safety features to older cars, and perhaps improving voice control as well. But for now, Pearl is focused on what’s behind it.