‘Cargo’ Takes Austin

The startup is in town for the festival and making waves.

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Cargo, a Portland-based connected car startup, hit the road last week to The Zebra’s home-town of Austin, Texas. What brings the crew to Texas? SXSW: that ever-growing conference we keep talking about held in Austin every year bringing in folks from all over the world for interactive, film, and music. Cargo embarked on a tour of sorts, making stops along the way to promote the startup and connect with car industry folks. Once in Austin, the company presented Cargo at the HATCH pitch competition: “the revolutionary pitch competition for tech startups making life better.”

We’re excited to have CEO Tyler Phillipi and the Cargo team here in Austin. But first, let’s take a closer look at the connected car idea:


If you’re a regular here at Quoted, you may have read our connected car post questioning the safety of the auto innovation. In the post, we included a curious tidbit from a car tech company noting that the auto industry is actually “a lot like the computer industry 15 years ago.” Interestingly enough, Cargo utilizes an “Internet of Things” (IoT) platform within their product. What the heck is an IoT platform? Glad you asked.

A Forbes post recently covered a conference in Vegas, where all the rage for the big-wig tech companies was adopting the IoT platform. Aaron Tilley explains,

“Many of the big tech players are trying to become the platform for how to connect together the growing list of devices with wireless technology inside of them–everything from your car to your thermostat.”

HOSPA: Hospitality Finance, Revenue and IT Professionals, created this infographic to explain the possibilities of the IoT.
HOSPA: Hospitality Finance, Revenue and IT Professionals, created this infographic to explain the possibilities of the IoT.

So, there you have it folks. The Internet of Things is a platform to connect the many, many devices we employ daily. Again, regulars, you may remember our own IoT piece on how the auto trend may even affect car insurance. Cargo takes this platform and its endless potential into your ride.  Simply put on Cargo’s site:

“Cargo is a connected car platform that allows developers to focus on quickly bringing new apps to market in all vectors of the automotive industry.”

Instead of being tied to your phone, Cargo uses a OBD-II plugin with its smart software inside to integrate you car into every other facet of your connected life: from social to vehicle tracking to anything else you can think of. Basically, Cargo provides the hardware and software structure for developers to create apps, in order to connect you to your car in a way that makes safety and accessibility a no-brainer. They’re in the business of making life easier.


But, where does Cargo hope to go with such an innovative product? How did Cargo start? We were curious. So, co-founder and CEO at Cargo, Tyler Phillipi, answered a couple of questions for us.

How did the company get its start? What inspired the idea for a connected car platform?

“It started simply enough with myself and a group of technologists  who were trying to make a remote diagnostic application for a friend who owned a BMW and MiniCooper mechanic shop in Portland Oregon. We found that the hardware and software infrastructure we needed to build this app was either locked down or proprietary. Meanwhile, we noticed a slew of other apps trying to use automotive data in unique ways. This told us that there was a need for a common, open platform for accessing automotive data.”

How is Cargo different than say,  Automatic?

“Automatic, and a slew of other “Automotive Dongles”, are very purpose built devices that focus in on getting the info from the car they need to run their very focused app. Think of when you had a Nokia Brick. It did a couple things really well; call, text, play Snake but that was it. No one back then was thinking “you know, I really want to be able to take photos of my food and share it with my friends (Instagram)” or “I really want to find a coffee shop near by that has wifi (Yelp)” but as soon as developers were given a slew of sensor, capability, freedom to do as they like (within reason) applications exploded. Cargo wants to do for the Car what iPhone did for the cellular phone.”

I’m not a huge tech person, but from what I can tell it’s an open source platform? What do you hope to see from developers? 
“Yes, to some degree. Think about it this way, we are giving developers the systems that car manufacturers will eventually provide and that’s:
  • Ability to read all the information coming from the ODB-II (like other people in this space)
  • Ability to call on the car for manufacturer specific information like status of seatbelt or status of charge in an electric car
  • Ability to push approved messages to the car in a secure and safe way. An example is door unlock.
  • Capability to use Cargos cellular connection to connect other devices in the car like dash camera, baby seat monitor, tablet, etc.

It’s open for them to do this and much more, without asking Cargo to build that functionality. We act as a kind of support for developers, and provide both safety and security to car owners. Make a safe environment, provide tools & support, then get out of the way!”

So, as Cargo continues to promote and develop a product with such immense potential for the connected car, we’re excited to see where it takes the auto industry on a whole.