Back The Truck Up
This is an actual screenshot of the Pearl App from my iPhone positioned horizontally (or “landscape mode,” as we writers like to call it). Resolution isn’t as good as I’d normally use for a photo on RFD, but it was sharp enough on the screen of my iPhone 6S, and perfectly good for a backup camera. Here the Flex is still parked in the garage, but you can still see our VW Jetta parked to the side of the garage. I certainly couldn’t see it from the driver’s seat of the Flex. This super wide angle would be particularly handy for backing out of a blind parking space or driveway, enabling you to see around the corner much sooner than you can with your own eyes.
With my phone held vertically (“portrait mode”), two different views appear. The top screen is a close-up view of what’s directly behind you. The bottom screen is a super wide angle, much wider than even landscape mode gives you. It’s also much smaller on the screen, so harder to see depending on how your vision is and how far away you mount the phone. But not only was the frame of the garage door visible, you can even see the edges of the Flex’s license plate bumper indentation on the edges. This looks like a true 180 view of what’s behind you – particularly handy when backing out of blind driveways or parking spaces.
Both orientations flip the image horizontally on the display, but when you’re facing forward in the driver’s seat, the flipped image accurately reflects what’s behind you from that point of view. My driveway curves to the left as you drive forward toward the road, but this view would cause me to steer right if I was backing up to the road, which would be the correct direction to steer in reverse.
I decided to test RearVision in another reversing application where I frequently struggle – hooking up a trailer. Rear visibility in the Flex is pretty good since it’s a box on wheels, but not down low, which is where the trailer hitch is. Our 5×9 ramp trailer is light enough that I find it easier to push it around and hook it up by hand, but we also store a larger enclosed trailer in our driveway for a local club and occasionally tow it to events. I can’t move this by hand, so the only way to hook it up is backing up to precisely the right place to drop the trailer’s coupler onto the ball, and I’m simply hopeless at doing this without my wife outside the car calling out instructions to guide me (a remote co-driver?) But with RearVision installed, I decided to see how well I could do myself.
My first fear was that the ball would obscure too much of RearVision’s view. I was happy to be proven wrong. The ball is quite visible, of course – particularly since the Flex’s rear license plate is directly above the trailer hitch – but the camera angle is wide enough to see around it well. I still stopped frequently to get out and look at how close I was to the trailer, since I was doing this for the first time, but in the end I managed to maneuver into the perfect position to lower the trailer down onto the ball. With a little more practice, and especially now knowing what the proper trailer position looks like on RearVision, I’d have far less trouble hooking up this trailer in the future, better than I’d ever do without it.
It’s worth noting that when backing up to a trailer, of course the proximity alert goes off. This is to be expected, since you’re intentionally backing up to a solid object. What’s interesting is that RearVision’s proximity alert, which uses its software and stereo cameras to determine distance, went off at EXACTLY the same time as the Flex’s own built-in backup sensors. It’s just as good. Once again, with practice I could learn to put RearVision’s alerts to good use telling me how close to the trailer I am.
I imagine RearVision might also work well for snowplow drivers, who frequently back up, push snow forward, then back up again. The trucks people use for plowing are often old beaters that don’t already have cameras or sensors. Because RearVision will stay on regardless of what gear you’re in, as long as you don’t exceed 10mph while plowing someone’s driveway you can have a constant view of what’s behind you, plus audible alerts when you get too close to that beat up old Jetta in the driveway. The $499.99 investment in RearVision may be cheap insurance compared to insurance deductibles and damage claims throughout plowing season – at least, as far as damage caused while backing up is concerned.
Technologically, Pearl RearVision works perfectly, and appears to have thought of everything. But when it comes to the physical installation, there’s a problem.