How to Turn Your Normal Car into a Connected Car


connected car app in use in Toyota

Not everybody needs—or even wants—a completely connected car. As we previously discussed, 20 percent of connected car owners have never used as many as half of the high-tech features available in their vehicles: in-car concierge, mobile routers for wireless Internet connectivity, automatic parking systems, head-up display, and other built-in apps.

These high-tech cars are more expensive than their more traditional counterparts, so carefully weighing how much you need each bell and whistle is important. If you’d like a technological upgrade, but aren’t sure you need a brand new car, you might find adding connected car features to a less-technologically advanced car model is the way to go.

The following devices can make almost any car “smart.” Just plug them into your vehicle’s OBD-II port (also called a diagnostic port)–located under the steering wheel or on the driver’s side foot well in all cars and light trucks built after 1996. Mechanics use these ports to diagnose why your check engine light is on, and insurance companies use them for their voluntary usage-based programs (like Progressive’s Snapshot), but now drivers can plug in a small device for an instantly connected vehicle. Our take on the best of the bunch:

Samsung Connect Auto

Samsung joins the connected car game with Samsung Connect Auto. The device is still in the prototype phase, but its release is planned for the second quarter of this year. Samsung Connect Auto will be powered from its own 4G LTE data connection (no smartphone connection needed). Tech Times writes that the technology will issue, “real-time alerts to users to help in the improvement of their driving behavior, including how to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicle. The device will also provide users with a Wi-Fi connection to keep the vehicle’s passengers online while traveling.” Engadget adds that the device, “keeps tabs on maintenance, helps you find your parked car and even alerts your contacts if you’re ever involved in an accident.” No definitive word yet on how much it’ll cost.

Samsung Auto Connect app and car

Vinli

Vinli creates a mobile hotspot with features like collision detection, maintenance reminders, GPS for finding your parked car and keeping tabs on people borrowing the car (perhaps your teenage driver), and SMS for emergencies, writes Digital Trends. Vinli’s service department will automatically call for help if you’re in an accident. And it’s all powered by a 4G LTE connection. Vinli, which just launched internationally, is available starting at $199 (plus subscription and wireless fees).

Voyo

Like Samsung Connect Auto and Vinli, Voyo has accident alerts, mobile hotspot capabilities, and maintenance alerts. But, according to Tech.co, its capabilities extend further: Voyo tracks traffic patterns and then uploads the info to the cloud. So, for example, if one Voyo user swerves to avoid a pothole, users behind them will see it marked on their maps and they can easily avoid the hazard.

Voyo can also remember stoplights with especially long waits and shut off the engine automatically, saving fuel. Then, when drivers let off the brake when the light turns green, the car will start right back up. And the results are real: Voyo says their start/stop system can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1,200 pounds per year (not to mention the savings at the pump).

Voyo’s smartphone companion app allows users to preset preferences, like automatically opening the trunk or doors when you approach the vehicle.

You can pre-order Voyo now, with shipping planned for April or May of this year. The device costs $100, with optional add-ons. You can pay a special pre-order subscription fee of $30 for one year, or $100 for a lifetime.

The government has not yet standardized connected car safety and security requirements.

Are Plug-in Devices Hack-Proof?

With connected cars come security risks. Though the federal government has not yet standardized connected car safety and security requirements, the makers of plug-in smart car devices have taken matters into their own hands to keep their devices secure.

Tech Times writes that Samsung Connect Auto, “utilizes Samsung’s KNOX mobile security platform. With this security system in place, users will not have to worry about their vehicle suddenly becoming a viable target for hackers.” Voyo uses a 256-bit AES encryption, promising the “highest level of data security.” And Vinli has a three-part protection system they call Vinli Shield Technology, including hardware protection and a multi-step authentication process.

If you think you’d like to adopt some new car tech, certainly check out the latest in connected vehicles, but remember these plug-in options, too. They might offer you the connected tech features you’re looking for — but without the costs associated with new car models.