Pearl RearVision: A Backup Camera For Any OBD2 Car

Physical Interference

The bulk of RearVision’s technology is built into the Camera Frame – two cameras, a Bluetooth/WiFi transmitter, a battery, and a solar charger. That’s why the Camera Frame locks onto your car with a proprietary screw head that no one else is likely to have (a special screwdriver for this is included in the kit). All of this is small enough to fit on a license plate frame, but not without partially obscuring the top and bottom of your plate. In my case, the “Spirit of America” slogan on the bottom of the plate is completely hidden, which is legal, and “Massachusetts” at the top of the plate is partially hidden, which is not. I used to run a custom license plate frame on one of my Miatas that partly covered the state. When I got the car inspected, I got a sticker but was told to remove the plate frame. He could’ve failed me for it.

I reached out to Pearl about this issue, and a Pearl spokesman replied:

“The laws vary state by state and we encourage our customers to take a look at their local laws. We’re dedicated to 100% customer satisfaction and if anyone is unhappy with RearVision for any reason, we’ll provide a refund.

Technological innovation has always moved faster than the law. Our focus today, and for our future products, is to make the driving experience safer for every driver, passenger, cyclist and pedestrian on the road.

Taking a look at other products such as bike racks, wheelchair carriers and scooter holders, they all block the license plate. Even many dealer license plate frames on both new and used vehicles obstruct the state name and registration tags.”

They’re absolutely right. In fact, while I was swapping emails with Pearl, RFD’s Josh Taylor told me he’d noticed a car in traffic with some other brand of camera/license plate frame that also partly covered the state. Pearl is certainly not alone. I never got stopped for this infraction, though it could be the legal excuse a cop needs to pull you over if they want to investigate more closely for other reasons – loud exhaust, window tint, etc. I could have failed Massachusetts state inspection for it, but as simple as the Camera Frame is to install, it would be easy remove it, get the sticker, then put it back on afterward. Not that I’d encourage illegal behavior, of course.

Pearl Rearvision blocking license plate lights

The other issue I had mostly comes out at night – mostly. The Flex’s rear license plate lights are above the plate, and the Camera Frame blocks any of this light from illuminating the plate like they’re supposed to. This could be a significant issue for any car that lights its rear plate from above. All three cars in my driveway – the Flex, my BRZ, and our VW Jetta – would have this problem. I asked Pearl about this as well, and they sent me overnight parts from Japan a special adapter that they said would address this problem.

Pearl RearVision Plate Adapter

Installing the adapter is, again, as simple as installing a license plate. It moves the plate attachment points down about 3/4″. The four silver Allen bolts come out (using the same tool as the Camera Frame lock – how convenient, no additional tools necessary), and you use those to attach the Camera Frame to the adapter. I was concerned that the relocated plate wouldn’t fit above the trailer hitch receiver, but it did, with about a millimeter to spare. This would certainly help with an installation that had vertical fitment issues, and is just as well designed as the rest of the RearVision unit. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for the intended purpose here. Despite the adapter, no light from the stock license plate lights illuminates the plate.

Now, if this RearVision unit was mine to keep and I was intent on using it, I would fabricate the following solution. The trailer light socket is right next to the receiver, right near the plate. I would install a pair of aftermarket license plate lights on either side of the plate area, and remove the bulbs from the OEM lights. Then I’d splice the new plate lights into a trailer light wiring harness, and plug them into the trailer running light output. This would solve my lighting problem on the Flex. When towing a trailer, I’d unplug this adapter and plug in the trailer lights. Since the trailer obscures the car’s plate anyway, who cares if it’s lit or not at that point?

But this solution wouldn’t work for everyone, since many cars are not pre-wired for trailer lights the way our Flex with the towing package is. I’m not sure what I’d do for my BRZ or Jetta, both of which also illuminate the plate from above. This also goes completely against the simple and effective “plug ‘n’ play” philosophy of the rest of the RearVision system.

I wonder if a second version of RearVision would be possible with the cameras and electronics on the sides of the Camera Frame, rather than the top. It would still have stereo vision, and perhaps the electronics could be split between the two sides rather than across the top bar. Then you could buy whichever version fit your particular car, depending on where your license plate lights are and what areas need to be kept clear to light up the plate. Or, if the Camera Frame battery could handle it, integrate some low current white LEDs onto the Camera Frame itself to light up the plate. It already has a light sensor, and the Car Adapter tells it when the ignition is on or off, so it could easily be set up to only use the LEDs at night when the car is on. If data on whether the lights are on or not is available to the Car Adapter through the OBD2 port, it could even turn the LEDs on and off with the lights based on that.

Conclusion

Most modern cars have terrible rear visibility. There’s a reason I added a backup camera to my BRZ early on, and why they’re becoming mandatory in 2018. We had a Nissan Pathfinder rental for a few days recently with no backup camera or parking sensors. The rear visibility was worse than any of our own cars, and I was legitimately scared of backing into the trees along the side of our driveway. Pearl RearVision would be an excellent solution for this. In fact I’d hoped to try RearVision on the Pathfinder rental for this very reason, except the shop was finished with my wife’s Flex the day after RearVision had arrived in the mail from Pearl, and she wanted the Flex back ASAP. I can’t say I blame her.

This has to be the easiest modification I’ve ever installed – literally plug and play. And it works perfectly. Pearl makes some lofty claims about RearVision’s functionality on their web site, but I can validate all of their claims as true. And it takes a great deal of work to make something this sophisticated also be so easy to set up and use.

My only issue is the size of the Camera Frame and how much it blocks the state name and illumination from above or below. If your plate lights are on the side, don’t worry about it. Otherwise, be prepared to find some other way to throw light on your plate to keep it legal and prevent traffic stops. Now that I’ve brought this issue to Pearl’s attention, I look forward to seeing what brilliant engineering solution they come up with to address it. They’ve certainly thought of everything else.

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