A year ago, I bought a 6 year old used car - a Maruti Suzuki Swift ZXi. It was surprisingly well maintained and I was satisfied with the deal. Recently, when my cousin got a newer version of the same car, I was thrilled to see its improved visual appeal.
Once my initial impression faded, I realized that there were no improvements in the ownership experience, nothing to entice me into buy this new version. It had the same fuel gauges and speedometers. All indicators were still analog. I still couldn’t figure out how much fuel exists in the car, just that level in the tank is about halfway. You only know the battery is dead when it is actually dead. The engine is still hot or cool or in between. Your laptop has better sensors than these.
And don’t get me started on the car’s stereo! A USB interface, that is the only new thing they can add in 7 years?.
It was like the automobile industry stopped innovating for the affordable segment. Maybe, they never realized that there are new low-hanging fruits to take care of. As a car owner, there are 3 things that I am usually worried about. (apart from it getting damaged or stolen!)
- Did I lock my car?
- What if my car gets towed? How will I know where to look for it?
- What is the amount of fuel remaining in the tank?
I think these problems could be solved using digital sensors, a standardized API and a tablet. Feed the sensor data into a tablet with internet access and let software take care of the rest.
You could check if your car is locked using your smartphone (something like Lockitron). You could be warned if your car is towed or stolen. You could get accurate mileage, diagnostics, maintenance alerts and consequently lower the cost of ownership. Given the API, the open source hardware community will make things that will shock the world.
I could make this blog too long to read, if I enumerate all the possibilities I can think of.
In sum, just put some digital sensors, provide a standardized API and the rest will follow. In their fast lives, a lot of people will have some peace of mind.
Thanks Arun for pointing it out. Ford has created an API - http://openxcplatform.com/. I wish it comes installed by default for all cars.