Most people know that today’s cars and trucks utilize multiple onboard computer systems. But many drivers are less aware that all cars built after 1996 have a 16-pin data port under the steering column that accesses the vehicle’s computer network. Think of it as something like a hidden USB connection for cars.
For decades, only auto service technicians had a way to plug into the so-called onboard diagnostics (OBD) port, so they could read and interpret the fault codes that trigger dashboard warning lights. (Ka-ching!)
It was only a matter of time before enterprising technologists would figure out how to tap into the OBD port and beam the data via Bluetooth to smart phones carried by drivers. Shouldn’t you, as the owner of your car, have ownership of—and access to—the data stored onboard?
The answer is a resounding “Yes,” for the creators of a wave of hardware-software car-based telematics aftermarket products—including Automatic, Mojio, Dash and Truvulo. The first of these products to hit the market is Automatic. I’ve had it running on our 2006 Toyota Prius for the past few weeks.