With all the talk of autonomous vehicles these days, it’s easy to see “Drivebot” on Indiegogo and visualize a crash dummy with an enhanced IQ. If that were the case, they probably wouldn’t be asking for contributions of $75, nor would they have raised $87,000 against the original goal of $35,000. Maybe I’m not much of a risk taker, but getting in a car with a $75 robot driver would concern me.
Back in the day, when I was a young lad tinkering with cars, getting an engine to run was a pretty simple task. You basically checked for spark and fuel; if both of those were present, the engine would start. Modern engines are a bit more sophisticated, and these days you need to plug in a computer to read and decipher the On Board Diagnostics. For most of us, this means trusting a mechanic to provide an honest interpretation of the error codes. I know someone who has a picture of someone who knows an honest mechanic, but he’s booked through the summer of 2015.
A group of Thai engineers have a better idea. They are building a dongle that plugs into the OBD-II port found on almost every car produced in the last 20 years. Drivebot uses Bluetooth to communicate with a smart phone app that can provide an honest, unbiased and jargon-free explanation of what’s going on under the hood. Unlike your mechanic, Drivebot can also watch for and warn of problems before they get serious, and even monitor and make suggestions on driving habits.
If you have teenagers who borrow your car, this is a game changer.