Move aside, Tesla. There’s a new player in town. Say hello to the Samsung Connect Auto, a plug-in device that connects to your car’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) II port underneath the steering wheel (don’t worry if you don’t know what that is, all cars made after 1996 have it). The device is able to process your car’s information in real time, providing alerts that help drivers with their driving behavior, fuel efficiency, and more.
This will all be possible thanks to readily available car data including distance and time traveled, miles per gallon, driving style, temperature, and weather data. Worried about privacy concerns? Rest assured, the information and connection will be secure via Samsung’s defense-grade KNOX mobile security platform. Beside helping you with your driving, the device will also provide a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot for everyone in the car, keep tabs on your required maintenance, help you find where you parked your car (for those tough days in the parking garage, or Disneyland..) and can even send alerts to your contacts to let them know if you’ve been in a car crash.
Even further, it can have applications for car loan services or parents, by having the option to enable a speed limit and/or geofence that will notify the owner if any of the rules have been violated. Zipcar, rejoice. The dongle will connect to an app on your smartphone, and it won’t just be limited to Android; iOS compatibility has already been announced. The app will give you a driving score with even further details in categories like acceleration, braking, cornering, and speed. This makes driving almost feel like a videogame, similar to what Fitbit has done to the running hobby. Objectives and achievements have the possibility of improving our driving by rewarding us for our good behavior; maybe we’ll all become better drivers! As of now, no price information is yet available, but the device will be rolling out to the United States in the coming weeks.
Alas, this won’t be without any competition. Verizon has hopped on the trend as well, offering their version of the dongle called “Hum” which offers many of the same features, albeit without an LTE connection. The pricing for that model will be subscription based, in that users will pay $15 a month for the service (and WiFi), and receive the $120-value dongle for free. Verizon also has the advantage of being a first-mover, since their device is already on the market and available for purchase.
These devices come in response to consumer’s ever-increasing interest in maintaining online connectivity at all times, the advent of smart cars, and even a heightened desire to save the environment and live more eco-friendly. WiFi hotspots have been around for years now, but they’ve been expensive and somewhat unnecessary when everyone already has high speed internet on their smartphone. Car diagnostic data has been around for decades and services like OnStar have been providing roadside assistance for years. Mass-market hybrid cars have been roaming the streets since 1999, and fully electric cars are begging to gain traction in the U.S.
So, is there a market for Samsung’s Connect Auto, or Verizon’s Hum? Looking at the comments section for the articles I read to gain information on this post, the answer is leaning towards no! People seem to understand that they have almost everything they need on their smartphone, and argue that hands-free “intelligent assistants” like Siri on an iPhone can offer them all the assistance they need. Similarly, many higher-end cars that cater to the types of people that would buy these devices already have some sort of diagnostics information available to read on a smartphone via bluetooth or an app. Some car manufacturers, like BMW, have even partnered with Apple to create Siri integration with iDrive (back in 2014). Needless to say, the future looks grim for “smart car” converters.