Florida-based startup Carvoyant, which showcased its services at the 2015 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco on 15-18 September, has developed a system that can extract and process data from any vehicle.
Some years ago, when the wife of Carvoyant founder and CEO Bret Tobey told him that the ‘check engine’ warning light in her car was permanently on, Tobey realised that there was no simple, fast solution to the problem. First of all you had to take the car to a garage to find out where the problem was coming from, then leave the vehicle there while they fixed it. Even in today’s Internet era, there was apparently no means of communicating easily with your vehicle to identify – or even anticipate –mechanical or system failure. Several years of work, lots of elbow grease and a good deal of tinkering later, Bret and his team have now launched a company. The solution they have come up with consists of a small device that can be plugged into any car manufactured post-1996 which gathers and processes data from the vehicle – technical data, and also information on the way you’re driving, the journeys you’ve made, car speed, and so on. ‟Our aim is to enable everyone to give their car a voice,” Tobey told the conference. ‟We started with a complex problem and can now provide a very simple solution.” The Carvoyant device helps you find the source of a technical problem in the blink of an eye, and also gives you advanced notice of any potential issues. It will for instance tell you if your battery is about to fail.
Useful data for companies
Carvoyant does not however see itself basically as a widget-provider. The company has set up a website designed to put developers and customers in touch with each other and the on-site publicity includes a call for tech startups to make use of its data and API to develop a range of applications. The possibilities are practically endless. For instance: ‟an insurance company could install our device on the vehicles of its policy holders in order to analyse their driving behaviour, the areas they drive in and how often they use their vehicle, so they can adjust the customer’s premiums based on real performance data.” A delivery firm can do the same thing – i.e. analyse the journeys made by its drivers, identify the places where traffic is always slow and adapt routes so as to be able to deliver faster and more efficiently, Bret Tobey told the Dreamforce audience. The three main ways his innovation is generally being used by partner companies are: ‟optimising their business, building better customer relationships, and reducing costs,” he revealed.
A tool for the self-driving car
There are many ways in which the Carvoyant solution can be used in the field of connected cars. The company has become a partner in the Tampa Bay project in Florida – where the company is based – which inter alia boasts a highway designed especially for testing self-driving vehicles. Being able to communicate directly with the vehicle is a key feature in the design of driverless cars. Bret Tobey sees autonomous vehicles as a good idea, but does not think mass adoption will happen in the short term. He argues, like Ryan Chin, whom L’Atelier interviewed recently, that the first phase of the transition is likely to be a fleet of self-driving taxis based in a few specific places. At the Dreamforce 2015 event where Bret Tobey introduced his firm, Peter Schwartz, Senior Vice President for Strategic Planning at cloud computing company Salesforce, also spoke about the future of autonomous vehicles. He too thinks the transition will probably take place in gradual steps but reckons that in the future when self-driving cars have proved to be safer than human drivers, people will actually have to pay extra if they wish to pilot their own vehicle. Just as the horse, which was once the number one means of transport, is now mainly used for leisure purposes, driving a car will, in the long term, follow a similar path, Schwarz predicted.