Driver assist technology (like the impressive array of features we reviewed in Ford’s Kuga SUV) is making new cars a lot smarter, and probably safer, every year. But what about older cars? CarVi is a stick-on unit that adds collision warnings, lane change assistance and driver skills assessment to your current ride. But we can’t decide if it’s going to be a nice addition, a missed opportunity or an annoying electronic back-seat driver.
The CarVi, which is currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding effort, is a chunky black disc 100 mm across and 35 mm high that fits to your windscreen behind and below your rear view mirror by way of an adhesive bracket. It incorporates a 720p camera, a three-axis accelerometer, a microphone, a speaker and a Wi-Fi unit to allow it to wirelessly connect to your smartphone.
As you drive, the camera captures footage from what’s happening in front of you and analyzes it in real time to provide driver assist feedback. For example, it will sound an alert when it feels you’re driving too close to the car in front, or wandering out of your lane without indicating.
All the while, it’s building up a report on your driving skills, taking note of overly hard braking and dodgy "jackrabbit" starts, among other things, to give you a "SKOR" for your driving, the idea being that you should strive to improve your SKOR by following certain driving tips.
Personally, I’ve got a device that comments frequently and frankly on my driving skills, and it’s called my mother. I’m not sure I’d appreciate the CarVi’s opinion, to be honest. While the CarVi’s forward-watch collision warnings might come in handy, probably its most useful feature is that it appears to operate as a dash-cam as well, with a feature that lets you hit a button to save either your entire trip or just the last minute of action.
It certainly doesn’t measure up to the in-car ultrasonic safety systems in modern cars, where features like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist take a much more active approach than a simple beepy warning. And it’s disappointing that the CarVi is totally forward focused, when blind spot assist seems like a much more useful system that could be integrated reasonably simply.
Still, without retro-fitting a whole bunch of ultrasonic sensors and hacking into your car, it’s a nice thought that you can upgrade your old car with some modern driver assist features. The CarVi team says the unit will work in 95 percent of cars, and will be compatible with iOS and Android devices.
At the time of writing, CarVi has reached about half of its $100,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding goal, with $274 (not including shipping) the minimum pledge level still available to put yourself in line for the device. The company has given an August 2015 shipping date, assuming all goes to plan.
The team's video pitch can be viewed below.