Advancements in car electronics the past several years has provided drivers with tons of great opportunities to take the latest technology from new model cars, and bring it to older vehicles. The latest trend in technology pushing the aftermarket auto electronics industry forward has been connected car devices. These take a page out of the Smart Home playbook and inject smartphone app-controlled devices with intuitive features to make for some really exciting gadgets.
One such connected car development that is making the latest tech available to older vehicles is the FenSens Smart Wireless Parking Sensor, which gives any vehicle an instant set of wireless, smart parking sensors.
The FenSens Design
There are license plate frame backup cameras, but FenSens is the first company to put together a wireless smart parking sensor in a license plate frame, which makes installation literally as simple as inserting a screw. I like the idea of using a license plate cover to house the hardware, because it can be used either in the front or rear of the vehicle, and even switched back and forth as desired.
Naturally, the sensors are weatherproof so they can be used in any climate or condition. FenSens rates their frames for temperatures from -40°-131°, so most residents on the planet in populated areas with vehicles are covered. As the parking sensors are wireless, the power comes from a single AA battery, which can give the frame juice for up to five months.
Both the screws that attach the license plate frame to the vehicle and the battery cover screws are the security Torx style (the one with the star and pillar in the middle of it) , which can easily be installed using the included tools but proves less simple for thieves to snatch. I wouldn’t expect anyone to really notice the license plate frame as anything out of the ordinary though, and to those who don’t know better it is just a low-key black plastic frame.
With the regular FenSens model, the parking sensors are located on the bottom two corners of the frame, which gives them the best angle to detect even the smaller obstacles. For trucks and SUVs though, since they use a recessed step on the bumper FenSens has a truck model available that relocates the sensors to the upper corners of the frame.
How Do Connected Car Parking Sensors Work?
I’ve said it before, just because it comes with an app doesn’t make it necessarily smart. Useful, yes but that alone does not make a smart device. In my eyes the real value is when a device uses the app to enable greater efficiency or control, and the FenSens does just that.
The sensors first use ultrasonic waves to detect any obstacles within a 10-foot distance. The app receives the signal from the plate frame via Bluetooth connectivity, where it vibrates and delivers an auditory alert. One thing about parking sensors is that they cannot tell the difference between obstacles, so if there is mud or something else on the sensor it can give a false positive reading whether FenSens or the ones on brand new vehicles.
Within the app there are options for vehicle ground clearance, which is intended to compensate for any sort of protrusion from a bumper or tow hitch. FenSens recommends not installing the device over four feet from the ground since this limits the distance and obstacle size detection. Since the device is also detecting objects lower than the sensor itself, the angle on higher vehicle mounts can give false readings without proper calibration.
One really smart element to the app is the ability to use it to track the device, so if it is stolen there is a chance for recovery. Even better though, this can be tracked while still on the vehicle, so in the event that your entire car gets stolen it can be tracked down. That makes the FenSens really a great dual-purpose security device.
The app itself is pretty straightforward, with a red/orange/green marking that appears to show drivers how far away objects are from their vehicle. Drivers can auto-launch the app by using Siri or Google Assistant, or by pushing the included Tap Button (for iOS models this launches a push notification which then launches the app), which clips to the steering wheel for easy access.
Who A Smart Wireless Parking Sensor is For
Those who have older model cars can really benefit from aftermarket connected car devices, because the individual components themselves are quite affordable. Buying a brand new car is of course an extremely costly endeavor, but most of the new tech components can be easily added to an older vehicle without too much cost.
Another use case I can really see this having an impact in is for elderly drivers, who may not have as great of depth perception and could use a little notification for close quarters. Interestingly enough since smartphones are now so prevalent in the majority of the population, the likelihood that an elderly driver would have access to an app-based tool is quite high.
Commercial trucks also could benefit from a tool like this, being that they have an extreme blind spot problem and most do not have the same technology as the newer vehicles do. FenSens notes that for commercial applications the max length is 30 feet, since Bluetooth signal cannot reliably carry farther than that.
All in all, the ability to add connected car technology piecemeal to any vehicle is a big jump to the car electronics industry, and has a strong value for any driver who doesn’t have the latest new vehicle. The FenSens is such a device, and delivers a strong value for those who need a little assurance they are in the clear.
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Note, all prices and products are accurate at the time of article publication, although some may have changed or are no longer available.