Ex-Apple engineers want to make your dumb car smart

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Pearl's RearVision adds a camera to your car.
Pearl's RearVision adds a camera to your car.
Photo: Pearl

It will be years before we get to see how simple and amazing a car designed by Apple will be, but for now a new hardware startup created by ex-Apple engineers is ready to give us the next best thing.

Pearl Automation, an autonomous car tech startup co-founded by Apple veteran Bryson Gardner, revealed its first product today that makes your dumb car smarter by adding a new feature usually only found on luxury vehicles.

Pearl RearVision is a simple license plate frame that adds a rear camera to any vehicle when paired with an iPhone or Android device. It also brings obstacle alerts and automatic updates to drivers.

“The underlying technology that we really see being valuable is a lot of the stuff leading up to the autonomous car,” Gardner told Bloomberg. “The core tenet of every product we see in the car is that they should learn over time

The company was founded in 2014 when Gardner left Apple after helping develop 13 different iPods and 3 iPhones. The startup already boasts a staff of 70 people, 50 of which are Apple alumni.

While Apple is busy building an entire smart car from the ground up, Pearl Automation is looking to take advantage of the long gap between now and when self driving electric cars become the norm. That could take decades and there’s billions to be made in the meantime.

Pearl’s RearVision will be the first of many smart car products the company hopes to make, but it could be a tough sell. The solar-powered device comes with a $499 price tag and is only compatible with cars made in 1996 & newer.

Pearl RearVision from Pearl on Vimeo.