Navigating on two wheels is a challenge, whether your vehicle of choice is a bicycle of a motorcycle. You don’t have the luxury of a large touchscreen mounted directly in front of you to direct you to your destination. You are too busy dealing with shifters, brake levers, and steering to take your hands off the handlebars for very long.
Within the next year, Elio Motors hopes to begin production of its as-yet-unnamed 84 MPG trike, and when it does launch, buyers will have the option of connecting to the cloud thanks to a just-signed deal with Infinite Skyz. This will enable Elio owners to utilize all sorts of connected car features include remote start, lock/unlock, navigation, and in-car phone calls.
Priced at $6,800, the three-wheeled Elio is aiming squarely for the lower end of the market where people are primarily concerned with costs and fuel economy. But the deal with Infinite Skyz gives them access to the SkyzMatic cloud, which will use buyer’s cell phones to provide most of these features and adds the kind of connectivity you’d expect from a high-end conventional car.
In-vehicle WiFi, bluetooth, and power everything will be possible. Parents can even monitor their kids driving habits on-the-go, so if little Timmy has a lead foot you can call and tell him to cool his jets. The features will even be compatible with the Apple Watch, something only BMW has thus far announced.
If all these features sound like they’re gonna cost you, well, you’re right; Elio estimates that these additional features will add between $1,500 and $2,000 to the price of their low-cost trike. That’s quite a chunk of change for the low-cost trike, though one could just as easily argue that all the money you’ll save on gasoline will more than cover the added features. And I don’t really have a counter-argument for that. With the first round of DOE Funding passed, Elio’s future seems brighter by the day.
Imagine you could take calls on your smart phone with just a wave of your hand. Now imagine you could navigate unfamiliar streets with confidence, thanks to a heads-up display that projects onto your windshield. Lastly, imagine a device that integrates your smartphone, your wireless network, bluetooth and your car’s computer, all without taking your hands off the wheel.
If you think you need to buy a Mercedes S Class or a Bentley to get such automotive deliciousness, you’re wrong. All you need is a Navdy, an iPhone (iOS 7+) or Android (4.3+) smartphone, and a car built after 1996.
The Navdy comes with a dual core processor that runs an accelerometer, e-compass, ambient light sensor, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0/LE, along with audio out via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm jack, a mini-USB port, and an Internal speaker and microphone, Phew, that’s a lot of stuff!
While there are other HUD accessories on the market, Navdy says none of them integrates all the features, including one hub for all your smart phone features, in such a compact, easy-to-use unit. The built-in infrared camera allows you to answer or end calls with the wave of your hand. Or you can initiate phone calls, dictate texts or add comments on social media using your phone’s voice recognition software. Because Navdy seamlessly integrates so many functions, if a call comes in while you are in navigation mode, your route directions continue to display while you take the call.
Plug your Navdy into your car’s OBD-II port to see your speed, RPM, distance to empty, fuel economy or tire pressure and battery voltage warnings displayed right before your eyes.
The Navdy is in prototype mode right now. The company expects to begin shipping in 2015. The regular price is $499 but you can order one during the next 30 days for the introductory price of just $299. The real beauty of the Navby is that you can take it with you and use it in any car. So you won’t have to ship your S Class or Bentley overseas if you are planning a trip to the Continent.
First let’s cover the basics. What is an OBDII port, you ask? It’s the semi-hidden port in your car that garages, dealerships and sometimes even your local parts store can use to diagnose a pesky check engine light. Today’s OBDII systems have come a long way from the 1994 cars they originated in, and depending on your vehicles age, may be able to tell you about much more than that little light on your dashboard.
A recent flood of adapters has entered the market, making it easier to access this hidden info, and sometimes even add in their own special touches. The products below are some of the more “professional looking” models on the market today, each with their own pros and cons. We’ll try to run down some features to make your decisions a little easier.
Automatic Link –At $99.95, the Automatic is the priciest of the included adapters, but includes its own first party software for iOS with features such as:
- Built-In Accelerometer (Tracks bad driving habits: rough braking, speeding and rapid acceleration)
- Audible Alerts (Helps reduce bad driving habits)
- Crash Alert (Automatically calls for help from local authorities and emergency contacts)
- Trip Timeline (Tracks your miles driven, driving time and money spent with detailed reports)
- Drive Score (Scores your driving habits to help set goals)
- Push Notifications (Sends notifications to your smartphone for the “less observant”)
- Parking Tracker (No check-in required)
- Mechanic Search
Automatic seems to be designed not for the car-lover in us but for those attempting to curb their aggressive driving habits. The acceleration alerts could be a bit intrusive when starting from a dead stop and unfortunately this setting, like many others, is not adjustable. The software, while attractive and easy to use, is a bit lacking on a few important features. With no live feedback and no ability to export reports, it makes the device less than useful for other purposes than decreasing your aggressive driving habits and fuel spending.
Whether or not the Automatic eventually pays for its substantial price is really up to you and your driving habits, though if you’ve ever been called an aggressive driver, this might just be the device for you.
Craven OBDII Connector – The $45 Craven Speed Bluetooth to OBDII Adapter offers up a Bluetooth version for Android, as well as a Wi-Fi version for iOS. Unlike Automatic, the Craven adapter utilizes the third party apps Torque (Android) or DashCommand (iOS) that offers a lot more flexibility in the information offered to drives.
This information includes:
- Air Ambient Temp
- Altitude (GPS)
- Coolant Temp
- Engine Load
- Engine RPM
- Fuel Level
- Fuel Pressure
- Intake Temp
- Intake Manifold Temp
- MAF Rate
- 02 Volt Sensor
- Throttle Position
- Timing Advance
- Turbo Boost
- Trip Distance
- Speed (GPS)
- Speed (OBD)
With a lower price and better flexibility, the Craven OBDII Adapter is less geared towards improving fuel economy, and more focused on providing as much information as possible. Information is displayed via your smartphone, adding a nifty feature to an OBDII-equipped car.
PLX Kiwi 2 – The PLX adapter is the least compact but most full-featured on our list, coming in at $89.99 for either of the Bluetooth (Android) or Wi-Fi (iOS) versions. The PLX devices use third-party software, similar to Craven, but offer a wider selection of choices including such heavy hitters as DashCommand, Torque, Enerfy, Rev, Roaders and Speedport. The PLX Kiwi is a more functional option for backyard mechanics and car tuners. A port on the back adds additional capabilities with the purchase of their iMFD adapter.
Kiwi’s feature include:
- Check Engine Diagnostics
- Real-time Gauges
- Fuel Efficiency and MPG
- Engine Sensors
- Customizable Dashboard
- Real-time Dyno
- Data Logging
- GPS Track Mapping
- Skid Pad
- Video Recording and Data Overlay
- iMFD Aftermarket Sensor Interface RPM
- Vehicle Speed
- Throttle Position
- Engine Load
- Absolute Engine Load
- Engine Timing
- Air Intake Temperature
- Coolant Temperature
- Ambient Air Temperature
- Intake Pressure (MAP)
- Air Flow (MAF)
- Fuel Pressure
- Fuel Pressure Relative
- Fuel Level
- Barometric Pressure
- Catalytic Converter Temperature
- ECU Voltage
- OBD Type
- Short Term
- Oxygen Sensor
BAFX Elm327 Bluetooth OBD2 Reader – The BAFX Elm327 is the least expensive option. A simple looking website with limited information other than this short list of features:
- Read and clear diagnostic trouble codes (DTC)
- display and read
- engine data such as RPM
- Vehicle Speed
- Long Term Fuel Trim
- Short Term Fuel Trim
- Timing Advance
- Intake Air Temp
- Air Flow Rate
- Oxygen Sensors
- and so much more!
The Elm327 uses third-party software, making it safe to assume that it offers many of the same functionalities as the other models. What this unassuming website hides are its unexpectedly positive Amazon ratings. 1,817 reviewers gave a 4 ½ star overall rating to this $23.99 device. At this price, the device almost falls into the magical impulse buy range, making it hard to ignore as a viable option.
Wrap Up: While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of devices in this category, these 4 devices are the ones I would consider when searching for myself. If you goals lie in lowering your gas bill and driving in the safest manner possible, the Automatic Link is the option for you. If you want the most information about your car, the PLX Kiwi 2 is the road you want to travel. The optional $50 iMFD will add in even more performance sensors.
If you fear that someone is watching your driving habits, or are concerned with battery drainage, the mid-level Craven’s on/off switch might be an intriguing option. Lastly, if your interest is less than 100% the entry-level BAFX adapter may give you the features you need at a price that fits any budget.
Fifteen Bluetooth sensors have been installed along the Deerfoot Trail, a 31 mile long highway that accommodates between 27,000 and 158,000 vehicles per day. The idea behind the system is that it will allow drives to see real-time traffic report that will be shown on signs along the stretch of highway.
Calgary, Alberta has installed a traffic monitoring system that tracks the movement of vehicles via Bluetooth signals. The traffic metering system cost $400,000, and the Bluetooth signal can be from a phone, a headset, or the cars entertainment system.
This sounds like an invasion of privacy, and also reminds me of the rumor concerning the Easy Pass/Fast Lane device on New York highways. But Calgary insists that the system has no access to the actual messages or data in the encrypted Bluetooth signals.
So while you are sitting in traffic you can read a road side sign that tells you are going to be sitting in traffic? Bluetooth can be used for many things — but on a highway? Privacy issues aside, this system could be a first step towards real-time traffic monitoring that could affect how all of us get from Point A to Point B.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison
The study, conducted by Deloitte, says that among Generation Y, 59% of those surveyed preferred hybrids over conventional gas cars. 2% preferred pure electric vehicles, and only 37% preferred traditional gas engines. That is a pretty shift in perceptions, though there are some pretty obvious reasons why.
Unlike previous generations, Gen Y has had to deal with higher-than-normal gas prices for a good part of their driving career. We are also graduating with more student debt, and have access to more tools, and choices, when it comes to buying a first car. My generation is more concerned with practicality and connectibility than it is with speed and style (though looks still count.) But 89% of Gen Y respondents also want a vehicle that gets better fuel economy than their current ride, which is what makes hybrids so appealing. Connectivity is also an issue of import to Gen Y, with 59% saying in-dash technology is important to interior styling, and 73% seeking a touch-screen interface in their car, with smartphone applications important to 72% of respondents. Basically, we don’t want cars, we want mobile extensions of our connected world. The study believes that our willingness to integrate our technology, and emphasis on fuel efficiency, could what is needed to push hybrid cars into the mainstream.
But there are problems, starting with cost. We want a bargain, a deal, a good investment, which is where many hybrids fall short. It can take years for a hybrid to pay off the premium price versus a less-efficient compact car, like the Chevy Sonic or Hyundai Elantra, both of which are rated at 40 mpg highway. The Sonic starts at $13,865, and the Elantra $15,345, much cheaper than the cheapest hybrid currently on the market, the Honda CR-Z, which starts at 19,495, but delivers less highway mpg. Even the Prius C, which should be rated at a combined 53 mpg, and will have an MSRP of around $19,000, will take years to pay back the owner. And with so many Millenials unemployed, underemployed, or caught under the burden of huge amounts of school debt (this guy), a new car is pretty far down the list of “must-haves.” I have to start paying for health insurance come March 16th, which in and of itself is almost a car payment.
And Generation Y knows this. We are also walking, biking, and moving to urban areas more and more. Cars are not as important to my generation as they were to previous generations. The study says that Gen Y buyers are willing to pay $300 more per mpg improvement for a hybrid over a non-hybrid, which is still $50 short of the $350 per-mpg improvement premium most hybrids charge.
In short, I’m not sold on this study. My generation may be more inclined to buy a hybrid, but once you get into that showroom it’s a whole different world, and I have a feeling most of my peers would still prefer a cheaper compact to a premium hybrid…if they buy a car at all.