Computer vision technologist Chris Carson has built a portable device that turns any regular vehicle into a connected car. The Caruma, which Carson calls a Fitbit for driving, tracks mileage, driver performance, trip history and GPS location information. The device also comes with built-in dual high definition video to record what’s happening simultaneously from inside and outside the car in case of accident or theft.
We’re starting to see more modern vehicles move into the connected car space. Jaguar recently debuted its F-type convertible at the Los Angeles Auto Show, showcasing the vehicle’s built-in data tracking and secure software over-the-air (SOTA) updating. The Tesla Model S offers an infotainment system allowing you to monitor energy use and other driving metrics. Other manufacturers are working on embedding technology into vehicles, as well. Google recently patented a connected car video system to warn drivers of road hazards.
But most of what’s out there now is built into the black box of modern, often more expensive vehicles. The Caruma is a portable device that can work with any car for $400 – or just a bit less than a GoPro.
To use the Caruma, you mount it on your dashboard or car window and then download an app on your smartphone in order to control the device. Information is gathered and uploaded to your phone using Bluetooth or a built-in 4G LTE Caruma Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows multiple users to connect devices without draining your phone battery.
The device also has a halo feature (pictured above) that will glow green, yellow or red to warn drivers when they’re being too aggressive on the road. Another feature was designed for parents, and it will allow them to geofence their teen drivers within a 25-mile radius that will alert the parent if their kid drives outside the perimeter or if they’re speeding and being reckless.
“But at a higher level, this is a big visual data platform,” Carson said. “That’s what makes our company so valuable is we’re collecting all this visual data. For example, you’re driving by a parking space and the camera records that and sends that information to the cloud and tells drivers there’s a parking space.”
There seem to be a lot of cool possibilities with Caruma’s technology. However, there are sure to be some privacy concerns with all this data gathering and ability to record large amounts of video. Carson brushes that off, pointing out that most car companies have set up labs for improving technology and working on better ways to track driving data – many of them in Silicon Valley.
“Honda, Toyota — they’ve all set up in this area,” Carson said. “We’ve got to move hard and fast here.”
Part of that will be in bringing in proper funding. Caruma is bootstrapped from Carson’s previous successes for now. The sole founder holds a PhD in robotic navigation, and much of his career has been in M&A and working with Fortune 500 companies. He even owned a factory in China at one point.
But now it’s about scaling the business, and that means venture capital. Carson tells us he’s meeting with several VC firms right now, including those specializing in the car tech industry.