Connected Car Devices: What Do They Do?

Mechanics - Computer Diagnostics

It’s infuriating that the most expensive piece of technology I own is also the dumbest.

Geoffrey A Fowler, Wall Street Journal’s Personal Technology Columnist, in “Devices Get Cars to Reveal Secrets About the Engine—and How You Drive


As Fowler explains, “Hearing from your car is no longer strictly the domain of “Knight Rider,” the dumbest show about TV’s smartest car.”

The article takes a look at these three companies, each of which produces on-board diagnostic (OBD-II) devices that are able to turn virtually any vehicle made after 1996 into a connected car.

The result? These relatively inexpensive devices will turn your 11-year old Honda into a smart car. Who knew it could be possible? Thanks to those OBD-IIs, you’ll have your business miles expensed, your driving style optimized, and your house’s temperature just right by the time you’re home. All that’s missing is for your car to deliver you a morning coffee.

Those of us who’ve grown accustomed to tracking steps and stairs with a Fitbit, or to reducing utility costs via the Nest will take comfort in being able to enjoy benefits that allow us to better understand and remotely manage our vehicles.

If you’re curious about the above connected-car apps, here are a few more platforms worth exploring:

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  • OpenbayConnect – Let’s say you’re driving down the street and your check-engine light illuminates. Should you pull over immediately, or do you have enough time to finish your trip, then take it to a mechanic? OpenbayConnect remotely determines cause and cost of vehicle repairs. This platform gives your vehicle a voice, enabling it to communicate directly to local shops, so you receive notice of the vehicle’s issue, along with confirmation of who can fix it and at what price. According to the WSJ, Openbay “is just one demonstration of how in-car connectivity to the Internet could alter business models.”
  • Vinli – brings an endless range of apps to your car, from safety to entertainment to onboard wifi. Vinli features 4G LTE, instantly turning your vehicle into a wifi hotspot, allowing everyone on your seemingly endless road trip the opportunity to enjoy the endless bounty of the internet.
  • Drivewise – if you don’t drive much, and have a clean driving record, take a look at usage-based-insurance. A program like Allstate’s DriveWise will measure your vehicle’s mileage, speed, brake activity, and hours of operation. Proving you’re a good driver could earn you rewards, potentially including a discount in your auto insurance. And while some companies will raise your rates if your driving is less than perfect, Drivewise promises it won’t penalize you.
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If you’re happy with your un-smart car, you’ll still need to periodically maintain and repair it and it doesn’t pay to be a Luddite. Book your car repair the smart way – that’s where Openbay comes in. Tell Openbay what your vehicle needs, and it will deliver you with competing quotes from your neighborhood’s auto repair shops. Pick one, book, and pay via Openbay, so you can get back on the open road, or just drive back home to watch Knight Rider reruns.

Image credit: Tom Hodgkinson, flickr; OpenbayConnect