Hooniverse Asks: Would You Pay $500 For an Aftermarket Back Up Camera?

Camera Frame Render_with iPhone
The Department of Transportation has mandated that starting in 2018 all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds sold in the U.S. will need to be equipped with a back up camera. That’ll be all well and good for the Richie Riches of the nation who can afford things like new cars and clothes that fit, but what about us poor schlubs who for no fault of our own drive around in older cars?
Thankfully there’s the aftermarket and in that marché of all things after there do exist a number of add-on rear-view cameras. To be honest with you, most of those are pretty terrible. One that’s supposed to be not-terrible comes from a new start up, founded by a bunch of ex-Apple employees, called Pearl. They have developed a license plate frame back up camera that gets its power from batteries charged by the sun and that sends its images to your smartphone via an included OBDII port connector.
The two-camera RearVision frame offers a 180° view and can turn on and off as the car is moved into and out of reverse. It offers audible obstacle warnings and can switch to a map view when moving forward. It also has a planned cost of $500. People say that hindsight is 20/20, but that’s a lot of Benjamins just to see where you’ve been. What do you think, would you pay that much for a back up camera, no matter how fancy?
Image: PearlAuto

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  1. Kiefmo Avatar

    My car’s got square shoulders and great big honkin’ windows.
    And that camera cost 1/3 what I paid for him.
    So, that’d be a great big honkin’ nope.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    It might be old-fashioned, but I’d call buying this equipment a big old defeat of skills. No.

  3. GTXcellent Avatar

    Not only would I have to shell out $500 for this app, but I’d also have to get a smartphone, and a smartphone plan. It’s a lot easier to just turn my head and look out the back window, and to utilize those big, reflective thingies on either side of the door. I think they’re called mirrors.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      PFT, sounds an awful lot like “driving”. What self-respecting car owner wants to do THAT?

  4. ptschett Avatar

    I’m not opposed to integrated or aftermarket backup cameras; but I’m opposed to the mandate for integrated cameras (the market should decide) and think this aftermarket setup is badly thought out. I’d prefer for the screen in either an integrated or aftermarket system to use an existing surface in the car (infotainment screen, or a screen built into the center mirror) rather than having to fish out my phone from my pocket where it belongs, and the solar power tells me that the designers may not be familiar with the concept of a “garage”.
    I opted for the factory camera in my current Challenger. It was cheaper than my comprehensive / collision deductible, and makes parallel parking far less stressful than it was in the old Challenger.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      Oo! A laser projector in the headliner, or dash, that projects the rear view onto the windshield, Heads Up Display style… I like it. I wonder if you’d have to flip the image?
      Also, they’re not familiar with the concept of “Seattle, WA”.

  5. kogashiwa Avatar

    This thing got mocked mercilessly on MacRumors. And for good reason.
    You’d be lucky to keep a $500 license plate frame on your car for more than a day in a lot of cities.
    And you can already get perfectly serviceable backup cameras that include a permanent screen for a lot less.

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Ten years ago, I paid $445 for an aftermarket back up camera. Price included installation, with hard wiring into an included device that adds two more inputs onto the nav screen. It still works fine, except I had to polish the camera lens a couple of years ago.
    So, while I’m definitely in the category willing to spend for a camera, I think hardware and technology costs have come down enough that $500 is too rich for my blood.

  7. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Would I be willing to pay $500 for an aftermarket backup camera? Maybe. Would I be willing to spend $500 on this aftermarket backup camera? No.
    I understand the attraction of solar/battery power and a wireless signal to a phone that you presumably already have. I just don’t share that attraction. I’d much rather a hardwired system. Wires for power. Wires for signal.

  8. P161911 Avatar

    I got a backup camera for my Silverado for Christmas. It was under $100. I still need to install it.

  9. mdharrell Avatar

    “…sends its images to your smartphone via an included OBDII port connector.”
    Speaking for myself and my own vehicles, I can see at least two problems with this.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Don’t worry, it can also broadcast to a CB radio!

  10. P161911 Avatar

    I find it odd that the vehicles most in need of a backup camera (trucks and SUVS over 10,000lb. Gvw ) are exempt from this.

  11. Batshitbox Avatar

    If I get stuck in one of these, yes. Until then the most I’ll do is take the tailgate off.

    1. sporty88 Avatar

      If you have a need for one of those, I doubt that driving will be one of your priorities.

  12. marmer Avatar

    Yes, backup cameras are great. But you can get a wireless one for around $100, maybe $200 at most. The factory ones are very nice. Count me as a big proponent of the mandate, as the factory ones cover a lot of stuff you can’t see in your rearview mirror, like kids and toys and pets and cross traffic.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Cross traffic is a great benefit of a rear view camera

  13. mrh1965 Avatar

    I saw the ad for this thing last week and my jaw dropped when I saw the price. Should I feel the need for a backup camera on the old Lexus — and it’s an attractive thought — I’d probably just go to an audio shop and get something hardwired in for half the price.

  14. Alff Avatar

    Would I do what now?

  15. Tanshanomi Avatar

    $500, has solar batteries, ties into the OBDII port, and I have to get out my smartphone to use it? Mr. Over, meet Mr. Kill. Seriously, when did needless complexity become a benefit? You can buy a generic wired system including monitor for $30-50, wireless ones not too much more.
    I’m on my 7th Macintosh and my third iPhone, but even to ME, “ex-Apple employees” has become a phrase that instantly kills any product’s credibility.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      While I agree that this is needlessly complex, the reigning king queen of needless complexity has to be the home pregnancy test with bluetooth.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        I’ll nominate a runner-up, should the queen be unable to fulfill her duties.

        1. Harry Callahan Avatar
          Harry Callahan

          Someone should develop bluetooth enabled toilet paper that signals if you got it all.

    2. kogashiwa Avatar

      “when did needless complexity become a benefit?”
      When Silicon Valley types started “solving problems”* without ever bothering to check whether they hadn’t already been solved.
      *this inevitably involves an app

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        This is embarrassing to admit, but when I started working where I work, I occasionally forgot that our scanner also was a copy machine. You know, the massive kind that fills a room and spits out all formats. What I would do was scan a document, get back to the PC, and print it out again. A big laugh by one of the near-pensioners cured that habit.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          We have something similar at work: in order to reduce wasted paper, our Information Services department will email us a .pdf, which we have to send to the printer, walk over there, sign the printed copy manually, scan it, walk back to our PC, and then email back (after which we can recycle the printed copy).
          One of these days they’ll figure out there’s such a thing as a ‘digital signature’…

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Ouch. There’s a lot of inefficiencies around, which, sort of, bodes well for further GDP growth without too much effort.

    3. Sjalabais Avatar

      The illustrated Volvo V40 should come with a factory setup. But who knows…occasionally, people don’t even look forward when driving.

  16. stigshift Avatar

    Not as long as I have eyesight, a neck that can swivel, and car with decent rear visibility. Why in the fuck is outward visibility no longer a concern with newer cars? https://limitedslipblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/hyundai-veloster-turbo-4.jpg

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      There are plenty of SUV’s now with the transparent portion of the rear window more than 5 feet off the ground, and the rear view mirror barely higher than that…

  17. Krautwursten Avatar

    What’s an OBDII? Is it one of those newfangled computer gizmos of fuel injected automobiles?

    1. ptschett Avatar

      Yes; it’s a standardized diagnostic interface defined in various SAE J-standards that was required for US cars as of 1996. They evidently are sending the camera signal wirelessly to the dongle (heh heh. dongle.) which is using the OBD2 port’s power & ground connectors for power.

  18. salguod Avatar

    My whole car cost $500, so, uh, no.

  19. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Nope. If you can’t park it you should either stop driving or buy a different car.

  20. ninjabortion Avatar

    Wait why the under 10k lbs rule? Are they saying people can see out of box vans just fine? Seems like a ridiculous distinction to make. Granted i don’t think they should be mandated at all, but here we are. Soon enough people will not be able to back up without the guidance of these systems, just like most people are incapable of driving stick.

  21. karonetwentyc Avatar

    Due to the Jetta’s less-than-stellar over-the-shoulder and rearward visibility, I retrofitted the OEM reversing camera to it. $180 shipped and about three hours of my time.
    $500 is just ridiculous. I even thought that $180 was high, given the components that go into these things, but $500? That’s half a grand. I’ve bought entire running cars for less than that, and they’ve had better outward visibility than the typical reversing camera affords.
    This really just strikes me as another opportunity to not solve a problem well. And the best way to solve the problem? Design in better rearward visibility by default.