Even if you can afford a new car this year, you might just enjoy hacking together your own version of the connected car of the future instead of buying the latest $50,000 fully electric car. If you have an iPhone or Android phone and about a hundred bucks, you can add a device to your current car that will sync with an app and provide a few of the Internet of Things features that will become standard as connected cars are made by every automaker.
Connecting to the Connected Car
The key to making these devices work is that they all hook into a car’s OBD-II Port. Cars made in the US after 1996 are required to have this port, and the connector must be within 2 feet of the steering wheel or somewhere within reach of the driver. This port accesses the car’s main computer that records mileage, speed, emissions, and other critical data.
The device used to connect to the OBD-II port is often called a dongle, and a variety of tech start-ups are making their own versions. These dongles take your car’s data and transmit it to your iPhone or Android device using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular connectivity – meaning the dongle itself will have some kind of transmitter, such as a SIM card if it uses a cellular connection.
Connected Car App Benefits
The last piece is the mobile app on your phone, which analyzes the car data on the go. Typically, the same company that makes the dongle has an app that works with it.
Connected car apps have three main categories of features:
Automatic crash detection and roadside assistance – If you get into a car accident, the app will send out an alert on your phone to 911 and your predefined emergency contacts.
Vehicle health diagnostics – The app tracks conditions such as engine codes, battery drain, fluids, and more, helping with preventative car maintenance.
Real-time location monitoring – From finding your car quickly in a parking lot to geo-fencing a teen driver to tracking a stolen vehicle, this app features help you know where your car is.
Most connected car apps offer a combination of these main benefits in some fashion. Other possible tools include standalone GPS mapping, remote lock/unlock, trip history, security features, driver awareness monitoring, and pole-position style games.
There are plenty of options to choose from now on, it just depends on what interests you and how much you want to spend. Unless you can wait until these features are built into every car available.