LAS VEGAS — Backup cameras have become standard in newer cars, but drivers of older vehicles are missing out. A Seattle-area startup wants to change that, and make it possible for any car to have a backup camera without the difficulty of wiring it into the vehicle.
FenSens, a seven-person startup based in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville — which also has people in San Francisco — makes a smart license plate frame that connects to a smartphone app available for Android and iOS via bluetooth. The $149 frame acts as a parking sensor, alerting users when they’re close to an object.
The device doesn’t require any wiring and it screws in just like any other license plate frame. The app can be configured for hands-free launch as well as voice activation, minimizing the attention users need to give the app while driving.
FenSens plans to release a pair of backup cameras — one for RVs and fleets in February for $199 and a solar-powered version for consumers in April for $119. In May, FenSens will release a $70 GPS tracker with roadside assistance and recovery.
FenSens raised a $500,000 seed round in 2017. In the coming weeks, the company expects to raise more cash, CEO Andy Karuza told GeekWire.
Karuza says the average car is about 11 years old and seven in 10 vehicles on the road don’t have backup cameras. That means there’s a lot of cars out there to be retrofitted.
Karuza says the company has gained traction with a number of groups. Smartphone savvy millennials have been an important customer base. Classic car owners who want the convenience of the technology without pulling the car apart to install a camera are another key demographic. FenSens also has a customer base of older users, some of whom didn’t even have a smartphone.
“We get people as old as 80 that are picking up a smartphone for the first time to use the products. Some of them have neck problems, and they don’t want to crane their neck all the time.”
Karuza, a Seattle startup veteran, has been coming to CES for seven years, and this year marks the second appearance for FenSens. The show has a heavy automotive contingent, and Karuza said the company got some great leads from the event last year.
“You never know who you are going to run into here.”