Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Car Apps: Fuel, Millage, Tolls, and Governors

Download smart car technology from the iCar store, right? Despite all the app stores for cellphones and tablets, cars have lacked that feature unless you install one of the various hardware devices from GPS units, OnStar, AAA OnBoard, StarMeter, or others. Mentioned in my previous post about autonomous vehicles, these devices assist and track car usage, and they also help automate tolls. Eventually, smart car technology may support virtual devices as “car apps” rather than need custom car installation.

Compare the cost of cellphones to automobiles, and note how that kept phone upgrades easier than car upgrades. Every few months the communication companies sent mail that offered free cellphone upgrades. I wondered when car dealers would send those kind of offers for vehicles. If they offered some free upgrade that helps avoid traffic tickets, wouldn't you be interested? Of course!

How about if the upgrade offered exact car lot usage instead of the blanket full day fare? While some ticket booths offer that, not all do. One custom installation called StarMeter tracks and optimizes the car lot usage fee by actual time spent in the lot. StarMeter is like any GPS tracker, yet the StarMeter company has worked alternative payment plans with many car lots. StarMeter bills you rather than you pay the car lot ticket, and then StarMeter pays the car lots. Even if the car lots you use don't require full day fare, it still helps avoid the need for exact change everywhere you go.

Some how I think car lots could offer those square barcodes for today's cellphone instead of custom installation in your car. One barcode on entry and another barcode on exit, so you scan both with your cellphone, and that updates your account online. I'd imagine cities could do the same for street-side meters, yet these meters still need some sort of feedback of payment made. The San Francisco bay bridge uses one car gadget for automated tolls, so the basic technology already exists even without barcodes and GPS units.

AAA now advertises their OnBoard technology, which tracks the car usage, speed, destinations, and more. The news showed how parents tracked their teen's car usage, as the system update the parents cellphone whenever the teen went over the speed limit. I think the teen may like one of those free upgrades that updates those old-fashion car-governors such that such limit isn't possible to break. AAA said their technology is not meant to pry, yet lets think smarter. Your cellphone knows the speed limit when you dial up local maps, so let likewise cellphone technology update the car governor as you roam.

One car app that news people stated that people want is cost per millage. With GPS always on in your cellphone, you can do some of that now. You let the GPS unit track your exact millage, and then you use those figures on estimate cost per millage. With smart car technology, exact fuel-usage figures is one thing that helps have more exact cost per millage rather than mere estimation. That kind of technology helps people plan cost of trips, account for regular commutes, and even compare those potential free upgrades at the car dealer.

Once car-to-car networks are more common then car apps, as virtual devices in your vehicle, may appear more available. Augmented reality software for cars, also, may be ready for everybody's use. Until then, there are car gadgets and custom car installations. We may see more barcode squares on street signs, which either your cellphone-cam or car-cam gadget scans, especially where GPS doesn't work as well.

You didn't miss that last sign did you?
“You just past Smart Avenue.”
– Siri (the iPhone assistant)

P.S. "Siri, find me the best car deal on Fulton Ave." "Alright..."

P.P.S. "Siri, is there a blind man's cane version of you." ...