Make Your Dumb Car Smart!

ConnectedCar_Main_2Move 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.

Samsung_Connect_AutoThis 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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 11.54.08 PM.pngEven 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.

HUM_Guide3_FTA15006_4H-TOP-ART-1024x816-2Alas, 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.

bmw_iphoneSo, 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.


  1. This is a super cool post Raul! Thank you for providing a great overview of this new app, which I’ve never heard of. I would be interested to know if it is already being utilized in other countries and if it was successful. I know you said it would be brought to the US in a few weeks, just didn’t know if there was already a test run in any other countries. I think it is interesting that the research you have done is leaning towards this not being successful because I think it sounds like a great idea. I personally would love to see statistically like that how good of a driver I am and how I could improve. Like you said it’s kinda like a video game and I know people love video games. Thanks for the insights.

  2. What a brilliant device!

  3. Really cool article! I think this technology will be really interesting from an insurance perspective. They would be able to say whether you are a safe driver or not and really know whether you caused an accident or not. Will insurers require that this kind of technology is in a car to get one of their policies? And then having some colleagues who have children getting their licenses, I know they would love this data to figure out what their new driver is doing behind the wheel. It would be a good teaching tool for them (although really, really annoying for their kids).

  4. Kind of freaky! Insurance companies like Progressive have been using this for a while now to help with insurance rates for good drivers by similarly tracking aggressive driving / braking. Its fascinating to see the tech opening to consumers, much like a Fitbit as you said. But the privacy is a big concern. I was actually wondering if you were going to push the product or disclaim it — which you ultimately took the words out of my mouth: “why do I need it??” Awesome post

  5. willybbolton · ·

    This is a great post. This is a cool device to allow you to see how your car is doing and keep track of important data. This does seem similar to an apple watch or a Fitbit, allowing you to have additional info on things you do/use in your everyday life. I think eric brings up a good point about Insurance companies getting involved in using these. Only makes sense.

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