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Making the Car Connection
In order for technology to have an impact, it needs to be voluntary on the part of the end user. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. In other words, force something on us and the intended impact will be minimal at best; but make the user feel like they are in control and the uptake will be to the positive.
With Car Connection from AudioVox I felt like I was in control from the get go. Granted my participation was voluntary seeing that it was a product review, but going in to my trial with this driver-performance device one of the things I wanted to maintain cognizance of was: Do I feel comfortable using this on a daily basis?
Car Connection is a smart two-way communication device that you plug into your vehicle's OBII port. Much like many of the commercially available UBI (usage-based insurance) devices on the market, the device is intended to communicate performance and health data about your vehicle. The only difference here is that the data I am pulling from Car Connection won’t lower my insurance rates, but rather provide some peace of mind about my driving habits.
Once I plugged in Car Connection and waited for the device to register with the network (took about an hour to obtain a strong signal, which is what the company suggested) I registered my vehicle online at www.mycar-connection.com. This essentially became my Dashboard for viewing and managing vitals about my vehicle, including fuel economy and vehicle health, among other data.
It gave me the option of setting up safety zones (i.e., geofence-type location boundaries) which I imagine would one day come in handy if I were to use the device for my child’s car, ensuring it did not enter certain zones I deem “restricted.” While I did set up a few safety zones just for purposes of the test, I didn’t consider this aspect to be a ‘wow-factor’ by any means. Yes it provided me text and email alerts when entering and exiting the zones, but all-in-all there was nothing all too special about the Safety Zones that I would say set Car Connection apart from some of the other devices I have tested in this regard.
However, what did stand out were options like Fuel Economy. I have always questioned how accurate the miles-per-gallon quotes are on vehicles these days. This data helped provide some true data to that theory, showing me that I average out around 17 MPG in my Hyundai Santa Fe. Compare this to open data available at http://www.fueleconomy.gov that says my model should be getting 19 MPG (city driving), and I think we begin splitting hairs. Still, in this day and age where gas is kissing $4/gallon two miles-per-gallon is till two miles-per-gallon …
But before I get too miffed that my actual MPG is not living up to the estimated MPG, I guess I should weigh some of the factors that could be contributing to me losing those precious two miles-per-gallon. Much of that has to do with driver performance, and this is another function I was able to monitor from my Dashboard. Over the course of the roughly 30-day trial, my vehicle’s Driver Score averaged out to about 74, which I would assume on a scale to 100 puts my Santa Fe into the C-minus range.
This score, from what I can gather, is accumulated based on driving habits. Perhaps my below average score was the result of ‘Excessive Speeding’ events, which were recorded four times by the device; or the ‘Excessive Acceleration’ events, which registered a whopping seven times during the trial. Or perhaps it was the five instances of a ‘High G Event’ which I am told comes from the accelerometer and indicates a sharp turn or fast acceleration/hard braking.
Quite frankly I never considered myself to be an aggressive driver. The data, however, shows that there have been certain events that could argue to the contrary. Admittedly some of these occurrences were intentional (in a safe environment, of course) to ensure the device was indeed picking up the right data. But I am not afraid to admit that the data in general was enlightening. Hey, we all get a little aggressive these days ... perhaps due to that $4/gallon gas!
The truth of the matter though is that if I were to enroll in a UBI program from my insurance company these events would have an effect on my rates. So if anything perhaps it inserted a little nugget of knowledge into my head to be a bit more aware of such actions while I am behind the wheel.
I am, after all, human and if the consequences of these events were simply that I would have a lower Driver Score I am not too sure I would be all that motivated to change. However, if the consequence was that my insurance rates would go up, then I might be in line for a bit of behavior modification. This is where I don’t quite agree with those who argue connected devices don’t influence behavior modification. It all goes back to what motivates you in your day-to-day lives. So does such a device have an effect on behavior? I say yes; to a degree.
One other tidbit I would like to add about my time with Car Connection: The Driver Dashboard features a ‘Vehicle Health’ report, which I found to be particularly handy. Alongside being able to set up alerts for changing my oil or rotating tires (among other maintenance tasks), Car Connection included some data related to recalls associated with my vehicle. Based on my vehicle’s VIN number that I entered during the registration period, I received an alert that some models were being recalled due to a defect with a frontal sensor in the air bag. A quick call to Hyundai assured me that my vehicle was not part of this particular recall, but the alert did provide some nice peace-of-mind that, should I have missed a notice from the carmaker about a recall that Car Connection was providing a nice backstop for the OEM.
In all, Car Connection has some valuable features. If you are looking to maybe monitor teen drivers, for instance, this is a solid product. Still, there are some features I would like to see added to Car Connection.
The Web dashboard is nice, and while the device has a nice feature that controls a user's cellphone while driving in order to prevent texting, it is only available for BlackBerry and Android. Being an iPhone user I was not able to leverage this feature. I have to wonder why they chose not to go with iPhone for this feature, but hopefully that will come soon.
Overall, the device provided some eye-opening data related to my driving, which is always valuable. If anything it tells me that if my insurance company does decide to go UBI one day there are a few bad habits I need to put in check prior to signing up. –Mike Carrozzo
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