Earlier this month, Tampa, FL-based Carvoyant started shipping its product, which aims to turn older cars into connected vehicles. The company’s transmitters plug into a car’s on-board diagnostic port (OBD) to connect car owners with real-time diagnosis information for their cars. With the intent to build out a platform that will allow the ecosystem of developers, data, and the growing interest in connected cars to flourish, the company also has a Jumpstarter page where those looking for early access can sign up to purchase one of its devices, currently available for $149, with the company looking to make it more affordable as it gets more orders.
The device works with any vehicle manufactured past the year 1996, and BetaKit spoke with CEO Bret Tobey about how his company is letting existing car owners tap into the connected cars trend rather than wait to purchase the latest models. “The idea is that if we make it easy for drivers and developers to understand what’s going with their vehicle, literally get their vehicle to talk to them, then we can create a set of tools to allow that driver to engage with all kinds of services,” said Tobey, adding that they want to “start to tap into the developer community at a really broad level for all the vehicles already on the road, as opposed to what’s being built and shipped today.”
The product is currently focused on preventative care, providing owners with important updates like why their check engine light is on, when their battery is being drained, and when their teenager is speeding or goes outside a given geographic range through push notifications on mobile and web. The company is also pushing the idea that a car owner’s data is in effect their data, giving its users complete control over which vendor they want to have access and which applications they want to enable as the company opens up its platform for developers to leverage its API. It is also in talks with location-based social networks and daily deal platforms to start to look at how the future of hyper-local targeted advertising within a car will look like, similar to what platforms like Roximity are already doing.
With the end goal of equipping car owners with the necessary information to cut maintenance costs and be in a better position to negotiate if and when they decide to ever sell their vehicles, Carvoyant joins a handful of startups looking to make car owners’ lives easier, including CarMD. Last year BetaKit also covered YourMechanic, a marketplace that lets users book mechanics who come to their home or office, in addition to Repairy, a company looking to help auto repair shops keep better tabs on its customers through its CRM software. In terms of hardware devices like Carvoyant, there has been a great deal of activity on the enterprise side with Aeigis Mobility acquiring ZoomSafer, both of which provide a similar OBD device that disables employee cellphones while driving.
However, Tobey said the company is hardware-agnostic and sees any activity in the space as being complementary to what Carvoyant is doing. He also acknowledged that although auto manufacturers have been relatively slow to open up their data platforms to outside parties due to the industry’s product life-cycle and security provisions, there have been interesting developments with industry giants like GM and Ford opening up developer platforms themselves, not to mention other trends in the industry like Google’s self-driving smart cars which are still a few steps away from becoming commercially available. Given that only recent vehicle models are fit enough to be deemed connected cars, Carvoyant’s vision to bring smart cars to existing drivers on the road today is sure to strike a chord with vehicle owners.