The dreaded parallel park. If you’re a part of the majority of car owners who have a vehicle without a backup camera or parking sensors, this can be one of the more stressful parts of city driving. And if you don’t have a passenger to hop out and direct you into one of those tighter spots, you may just need to search for a different spot.
Enter FenSens, a Woodinville-based startup that offers simple, easy-to-install parking sensors and backup cameras that can upgrade just about any car with a standard American or European license plate. For the last four years, a small team led by serial entrepreneur Andy Karuza has worked on developing affordable and hassle-free devices to make cars feel newer.
“With our product, you don’t have to take your car in somewhere to have something installed by a professional,” Karuza said. “You can put our parking sensor on your license plate with a screwdriver in five minutes.”
Not only do parking sensors and backup cameras make parking easier, they also prevent accidents that can both drive up insurance rates and hurt others. Despite these perks, only 3 out of 10 vehicles are outfitted with them in the United States — meaning 200 million cars are without the technology.
The main barrier to changing this, Karuza said, is the time and expense of having a system installed professionally. Fitting an older car professionally with a parking sensor or backup camera includes special tools and wiring and, according to Karuza, starts at about $1,000.
In contrast, FenSens offers a smart wireless parking sensor for $129 and a solar-powered backup camera — which was just released onto the market this month — for $150.
Karuza said their products are kept affordable because they focus on the necessities.
“We stripped it down to the bare bones and are providing customers with what they’re looking for, which is an affordable and easy-to-install parking sensor,” Karuza said. “We’re not producing too many fancy features that people don’t really need because that would drive up the cost of the product.”
The parking sensors and backup cameras made by FenSens are license plate frames that come with custom screws designed to prevent theft (a screwdriver for easy installation also is included). Customers can choose to buy one and use it on the back of their car or install one on each license plate.
As for the visual display, there’s no need to install a screen in your car: It all works through a hands-free app on your smartphone. The app, which launches automatically and responds to voice commands, provides audio, visual, and vibration alerts.
Though FenSens started with the idea of Bluetooth-enabled parking sensors that could be easily installed — its name is an abbreviation of “fender sensor” — the startup has short-term plans to tackle more.
“What we’re getting to is making it possible to use your smartphone not only for parking, but also to find your car, to stream music through your car speakers, (and) to locate your car if it’s stolen,” Karuza said.
The company plans to launch the Bluetooth adaptor this month and the GPS tracker in July.
“We’re looking at really creating a whole loop of experiences,” Karuza said. “That way if you do have an older car you can update to whatever new car tech you want through your mobile phone and just plug in whatever accessories you want. You can have that new-car experience in (almost) any ride.”
This means that no matter how old your car is, if it has a standard license plate, it qualifies for an update. The company website even shows a 1969 Karmann Ghia fitted with one of their parking sensors.
Currently, Karuza said, FenSens has customers in more than 100 countries.