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Can I use my smartphone to view a backup camera? (Roadside Assistance)

This week on CNET Roadside Assistance, we look ahead at a Wi-Fi-enabled rear-view camera that plays nice with your smartphone.


Settling into the driver's seat of a modern, 2012 model year automobile means that you'll be facing quite a few LCD screens. You've got the display for the audio system, sometimes a color screen for navigation, the occasional standalone climate-control display, the monochromatic trip computer/vehicle settings LCD in the instrument cluster, and sometimes the instrument cluster itself is just one big LCD. Lots of screens demanding more and more of the driver's visual attention.

Sometimes, it's good to simplify and consolidate these screens down to a more manageable number. Many drivers chose to do this by using one of the best multitasking tools known to man: the humble smartphone. Your average smartphone can juggle turn-by-turn directions, audio directions, voice commands, reading text messages aloud, and a host of other entertainment functions, all within the confines of its palm-sized screen. As many readers will be quick to point out, the other side of this double-edged sword is that the phone can also be a huge distraction itself.

Today, however, I'll be looking at a piece of future tech that can combine with your smartphone to actually make your car safer.

Can I add a rear-view camera without adding another screen?

Hi Antuan,
I am just wondering if you know of a wireless backup camera designed to work with smartphones to make the installation process simpler and make use of a screen that many people already have on hand instead of adding yet another display to the dashboard?

Miguel N.

Well, Miguel, although there are now plenty of smartphones on the market that will output video (either via Micro-HDMI, MHL, or plain analog video), there aren't any that I'm aware of that can actually accept a video input without significant hackery.

Earlier this year, automotive parts supplier Valeo debuted its Valeo Wireless Vue Wi-Fi Rear Camera at Auto Expo in Delhi. This tiny camera installs on a vehicle much like any other rear camera would. However, instead of sending a video signal via cables to a dashboard display or transmitting a proprietary RF signal to a wireless receiver, the Vue sends a video signal over Wi-Fi that can be received by an app on a smartphone and displayed on the handset's LCD -- essentially, that's exactly what you're asking for in your e-mail.

I saw a similar technology firsthand when I tested the Ion Air Pro Wifi sports camera earlier this summer. That camera was able to broadcast its video signal to iPhones via an app and to any other smartphone via a browser hack. It's pretty cool. Valeo's system could work essentially in the same way, only launching automatically when the reverse signal is received from your car.

Unfortunately, I don't have any more information of a launch date, pricing, or what smartphone platforms will be supported, but know that we'll be keeping our eyes peeled here at Car Tech for the deets as soon as they surface.

CNET Roadside Assistance is a reader Q&A column where I, Car Tech editor Antuan Goodwin, answer your automotive and car technology-related questions. If you have a burning car technology question or just need something explained, send me an e-mail at cartech at cnet dot com. Put "Roadside Assistance" in the subject header and you might just see your question answered right here on CNET! You can also find me on Twitter and send me your questions there. Just follow @antgoo.