If you hate parallel parking, or if you tend to avoid backing into spots at all costs, a new wireless camera that uses your smartphone as its display could help.
The new backup camera for cars, dubbed RearVision, is powered by solar energy and uses Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect with your phone.
The device also will be the first backup camera to update itself automatically to get better over time, according to Pearl Automation, the Silicon Valley-based company developing the gadget. [Hyperloop, Jetpacks & More: 9 Futuristic Transit Ideas]
Backup cameras are designed to help drivers see behind their car as they back up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has mandated that backup cameras become standard starting with all model-year-2019 cars. According to the NHTSA, in the United States alone, more than 200 deaths and 15,000 injuries are caused each year by accidents involving backward-moving cars.
The first backup camera appeared in a concept car in 1956 and in a production car in 1991. Still, only about 1 in 4 cars today has a backup camera, according to the Consumer Technology Association.
There are at least two reasons why most cars do not have backup cameras, according to Pearl Automation. One problem is that people rarely buy new cars; the company noted that the average life of a car is about 17 years, so if companies were to wait for everyone to buy a new car in order to get these important safety features, it would take at least 40 years for those features to reach about 90 percent of all cars. Another problem is that installing a backup camera onto a car that lacks one involves drilling holes into the car's trunks and running wires inside the vehicle.
Bryson Gardner, CEO of Pearl Automation, said that he and fellow Pearl co-founders Joseph Fisher and Brian Sander came up with RearVision because they "each owned fairly new cars, none of which had a backup camera," Gardner told Live Science. "Given the technology had been around for decades, we were shocked to find that, even today, more than 75 percent of the cars on the road in the U.S. lack one. We created RearVision to bridge this gap by allowing people to upgrade their cars in minutes through the aftermarket to improve the overall experience for every driver on the road today," he added.
RearVision is intended to make it easier to install backup cameras inside cars. It uses a driver's smartphone as the display, thus eliminating the need to install a screen inside the car.
The camera includes a license-plate frame that has two high-definition cameras to provide a nearly 180-degree wide-angle view. One camera is optimized for the day, while the other is infrared-sensitive to see well at night, and each lens has a water-repellent coating for rainy days.
The camera frame uses solar cells for power, and communicates wirelessly using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. RearVision is wireless, so there's no need for wiring or drilling inside cars. [9 Odd Ways Your Tech Devices Might Injure You]
RearVision's "brain" is its car adapter, which plugs into a car's onboard diagnostic (OBD) port. (OBD ports became standard starting with all model-year-1996 cars.)
The car adapter wirelessly connects the camera frame to the driver's smartphone. In addition, its eight-core processor runs the vision algorithms that help RearVision detect and highlight obstacles picked up in the video feed. The car adapter also uses a built-in speaker to provide audible alerts if it detects an obstacle, in case the driver's smartphone is set to silent or vibrate, according to the company.
Drivers can easily stick their smartphone onto a magnetic phone mount that RearVision provides for hands-free driving, the company said. The phone mount attaches to a car's vent or dashboard.
The Pearl smartphone app is compatible with iPhone and Android phones. The app streams video, is controlled by taps on the touch screen, allows drivers to switch from normal to superwide views and can pan left to right to peek around corners. The company noted that RearVision can be installed in just minutes.
Pearl representatives said that, to reduce the risk of theft, the camera frame is secured to the car using a special screw that cannot be removed without a special locking tool. The camera frame is also electronically paired with its companion car adapter at the factory, so they will not work independently from each other. Moreover, when a driver sets up the Pearl app for the first time, his or her smartphone will get paired with the RearVision device via a unique set of customized credentials. Finally, the company said that if the camera frame is stolen, the company will replace it at no charge.
Pearl was founded in 2014 by Gardner, Fisher and Sander, three former Apple engineers who helped develop the iPod and iPhone. The company is now devoted to developing advanced products for cars.
RearVision costs $500 and comes with a three-year warranty. The product was announced in June and will begin shipping in September.
Original article on Live Science.