Introducing our investment in Pearl, the first direct-to-consumer products company bringing safety, convenience, and eventually, autonomous driving features to your existing car.
With more than 1.2 million fatalities and up to 50 million injuries globally per year, driving is dangerous. It takes a tremendous toll on our society — more than $1.9 trillion in direct economic costs each year. Reducing and eventually eliminating most of the dangers of driving is actually a technology problem for which we have the answer. Humans should drive less and computers should drive more.
There are 1.2 billion cars on the road today. Even with the popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and the potential Millennial trends away from car ownership, there will be two billion cars on the road by 2035. Today, none of them can drive themselves. And only about 70,000 of them (most Tesla Model S and X units) have autopilot features—the beginning of autonomous driving. The automotive industry offers us only one way to get new safety and convenience features—buy a new car.
The problem with this approach is that it is just too slow. The average life of car ownership is about 11 years and the average life of a car is about 17 years, so if we wait for everyone to buy a new car in order to get new important safety features and autonomous driving capabilities, it will take at least 40 years for those features to reach about 90% of existing cars. This is true even if every single new car came with all of these features—but that’s not how the auto industry works—they tend to offer advanced features only in higher-end packages on select models. If autonomous cars are offered for sale in 2020, and we assume these features are in many of the new cars available, by 2030 there will still be 1.6 billion cars on the road without any autonomous features. This is not ideal.
Thankfully, a team of more than 50 enormously talented engineers and designers from Apple thought there should be a different path towards the autonomous driving future. Together, they have designed and launched more than 25 different iPods and iPhones currently in use by a billion people. With this unparalleled consumer products expertise, they created a company dedicated to offering the world’s most elegant and beautifully functional products for your existing car, intending to pave a path to autonomous driving for everyone.
To start, one of the most useful safety features for cars is the backup camera. According to the NHTSA, in the U.S. alone, 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries are caused each year by backwards-moving car accidents. But today, despite being introduced in 1956 and appearing in the first production car in 1991, only 1 in 4 cars has a backup camera, and most of them are terrible — poor quality optics, low-resolution displays, limited sight distance and field of view, no intelligence, and to add one to an existing car, someone has to rip open your car to install it.
Welcome to Pearl RearVision.
Pearl RearVision is self-installable in just a few minutes. It’s solar-charged and fully wireless. It has two of the most advanced stereo-optic cameras ever put in a car and can see, day or night, with nearly 180º field of view. It sees things we humans cannot see. The system is built with deep learning intelligence and will be able to auto-identify different types of objects behind and to the side of your car. It provides both audible and visual alerts as you near certain objects and is contextually aware of your surroundings, using GPS to know the difference between a driveway and a parking lot, for example. What about the screen? Pearl RearVision streams wirelessly to your phone. And the picture is gorgeous.
Most importantly, it get’s better over time through automatic software updates. As the system learns, every user benefits with smarter image sensing and better object identification. And the company will add more and more features to all units through these updates—truly a product that improves over time.
This is only the first product from Pearl. Over time, they will deliver more products for your car, built with the same outstanding quality and premium features found only in the most expensive luxury automobiles, plus many features not found inany automobiles. Pearl will pave the road to autonomous driving for the more than one billion cars on the road today. Because everyone should have life-saving technology in their car, not just the people who buy high-end new cars.
At Venrock, we are honored to partner with Bryson, Brian, Joseph and their incredibly talented consumer products team as they undertake one of the most important challenges we face as a society — making us safer on the roads.