Dongles Watch Your Driving

RSS
Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics.

You’ve probably seen the insurance commercials. Just plug in a free dongle so the insurance company can track how you drive your car. You might save some money on your insurance bill. Then again, you might not. It depends on how, where, and what you drive.

The dongle plugs into the OBD-II diagnostic socket, which has a power and a controller-area network (CAN) connection to the rest of the car. The socket can be found in every car made after 1996. It provides access to data about the car and its operation. The dongle adds a micro, a GPS receiver, and a cellular interface.

I wasn’t too fond of the idea of my insurance company tracking me, but I did think it might be a good idea if I could get that information myself. As it turns out, we all can, for a price.

Audiovox’s Car Connection (CC), which has an OBD-II dongle with GPS and cellular support, is now plugged into my 2010 Prius (see the figure). It tracks my car’s every move. I can find my car in a parking lot using the Android app on my smart phone. My wife can see where the car is too. I don’t have one on her car yet.

Figure 1. Audiovox’s Car Connection dongle (a) plugs into a socket found under the dash (b).

The location information would be handier if my kids weren’t off and married. CC lets you set up Safety Zones and texts you if the car goes outside of them. It is handy for tracking older or younger drivers who might have limits set on their driving.

What I have found more useful is the driving information. Of course, it says I should slow down to get better gas mileage. I did chuckle at its hint not to let the car idle, though. The Prius doesn’t run when it’s sitting still.

The system is supposed to provide diagnostic details if the car alerts you to a problem. I wish the app would provide this info anytime. Engineers and car buffs would love that, but it would probably just confuse the average consumer. The system will track and notify you about regular maintenance, but I had to set up the schedule myself. It would have been nice if the software did this itself, since it knows the make and model of the car.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL). There is an upfront cost and a reasonable annual subscription for CC. That insurance dongle might appear to be free, but it ain’t. Even a lower insurance rate will cover its cost in the long run.

In theory, the tracking and automotive information will only be available to me. That may be cold comfort these days with the likes of the National Security Agency looking over everyone’s Internet shoulder. In the meantime, I’ll keep a closer eye on my Prius using my smart phone.

Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Sep 4, 2013

File does not include any high resolution graphics or scematics - PDF document says 13 pages but only 1 page shows up. Tried multiple times.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's alt.embedded?

Blogs focusing on embedded, software and systems

Contributors

William Wong

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
Commentaries and Blogs
Guest Blogs
Aug 11, 2015
Commentary

Proof-of-Concept Prototypes versus Manufacturing Design Preparations 3

I have designed many early-stage proof-of-concept (POC) circuits, and observed many others do the same thing. It seems that there is often a huge disconnect between clients and engineers, though, when it comes to the goals of a POC design. In simple terms, an engineer worth his salt will overdesign an early POC circuit. This is because Murphy’s law always applies, and POCs are about overcoming unknowns. By overdesigning the circuit, one is able to prove the client’s product POC can be made to work, and quickly....More
Aug 4, 2015
blog

Inconspicuous Pitfalls in Datasheet Analysis

Identifying the limitations of a datasheet saves lots of time, and cost, in terms of troubleshooting and redesigning circuits....More
Jun 30, 2015
Commentary

Four-Wire Sensing Can Make or Break Your Measurements 7

Erroneously implementing four-wire sensing into a measurement instrument can be disastrous, so it becomes critical to have a firm grasp of how sense lines function....More

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×