Backup camera maker FenSens raising cash, aims to collect data for self-driving car technology

FenSens CEO Andy Karuza. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

FenSens, a Seattle-area startup that makes smart backup cameras and parking sensors, is raising cash as it positions itself to be the “bridge between the car of yesterday and the car of the future.”

The company said Monday it has a $2 million “non-binding investment (letter of intent)” from a Chinese investment firm. FenSens will use the cash to expand its product lineup.

RELATED: Seattle-area startup FenSens wants to put a smart wireless backup camera on every vehicle

FenSens makes a $199 smart license plate frame with a backup camera that connects to a smartphone app. The company makes it possible to put a backup camera on older cars that don’t currently have access to the technology. In addition to the backup camera, FenSens makes an $89 smart license plate with a parking sensor.

FenSens is also working on a AI-powered dashboard camera called “SocialCam” that lets drivers capture and share clips of accidents or bad drivers and spot cars in their blind spot.

The real value of the camera, the company says, is in its ability to use artificial intelligence to map roads and collect driver behavior data that could later be used by self-driving cars.

“It’s crazy to me that everyone is investing billions into pie in the sky ideas that may or may not pan out 10 years from now, but practically nobody is getting the helpful data that can be gleaned from the vast majority of drivers today,” FenSens CEO Andy Karuza said in a statement. “As of today, only we can provide the real world data from real drivers to any autonomous technology.”

FenSens’ smartphone powered backup camera on a classic MG TC vehicle. (FenSens Photo)

In addition to the dash cameras, FenSens is also working on a 360-degree camera to help capture even more data and help drivers make better decisions.

Karuza is a veteran of the Seattle-area startup scene who is familiar with cars. When he was a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, he would drive the more than 100 miles south to Seattle to work on a startup, often sleeping overnight in his car.

Today, Karuza leads a 6-person team distributed across the Seattle area, San Francisco, Austin, and Germany. The company raised a $500,000 seed round in 2017, and was named a Best of CES finalist at the annual tech conference in Las Vegas in 2019. It has raised about $850,000 to date, which Karuza notes is “far less” than the $50 million raised by Pearl Automotive, a similar startup that built a wireless backup camera but shuttered in 2017.

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