While tech giants like Apple and Google are vying to get in your car’s infotainment system, a small Indian startup is aiming for a lot more. Meet Fuel Book, a tiny gadget that claims to turn any car into a smart car.
The concept is quite a simple one. Fuel Book plugs into the diagnostic port of your car (more on this later) and gives you the complete information about your vehicle. The device will pair with your handset and tell you when you are running out of fuel. Sounds ordinary? What makes Fuel Book extraordinary is the fact that it will even tell you the nearest petrol pumps and ATMs. Still not convinced?
Well how about a complete diagnosis of your car and predicting an estimate repair cost. If you are still skeptic, Fuel Book is even smart enough to maintain a note of your daily travel routes and then tell you about the speedbreakers and other problems (if any) on the route.
We sat down with Mr. Deepak John, Co Founder and CEO for a small interview. Mr. John told us about how Fuel Book can turn any car sold in India after 2002 and in the US after 1996 into a smart car. Here are the highlights:
R: ..diagnostic port? I never heard about it? Where is it and what actually is it?
DJ: Well, a diagnostic port is generally found beneath the steering wheel of a car. It is used by service professionals and mechanics to read the core data when you take it in for a service. The exact location varies based on manufacturers. We translate this core data into user understandable language. You can easily know whether your exhaust is clogged or your AC is giving you troubles. So, instead of going to a service center and them producing a pretty long bill,
R: ..so how will people know where to plug-in the device?
DJ: We have implemented an intuitive system called as Fuel Book Port Finder tool. Launch the app, goto diagnostics port finder and point your handset at the steering wheel, it will automatically tell you where the port is. Plug the device in and you are good to go.
R: ..pretty neat I must admit. The “Black Box” sounds darn interesting. Does it have a story behind it or??
DJ: Well, there is no official story behind this but look around you, people getting into accidents and then cooking up stories for insurance claims like “he was going fast or he did she did.” It works for some but many are never so lucky. So, our Black Box stores information about your car, like the speed at which you were driving etc. This will serve as proof during insurance claims and will help during disputes. When we started building Fuel Book, we ourselves were amazed thinking about the possibilities.
R: ..the device itself has very little memory…
DJ: Yeah, the device has 8KB of storage and can hold up to 1 weeks worth of data.
R: And what will happen after a week?
DJ: Suppose we start on a Monday, the device will start storing the data, and when the next monday comes the device will flush out the entire weeks data and start a fresh. Regarding the Black Box Data, that data is stored on our 256 bit AES Encrypted servers so that can be accessed at any time when the user wishes to.
R: ..lets move onto the battery life. The device will be connected to our handsets so how will that affect the battery life?
DJ: That’s a very good question! See, basically any device that connects to your handset will affect your battery life. Take the example of Google Maps. They ping your cell’s GPS every 1/6th of a second. What Fuel Book does is that it pings your device every 1/3rd of a second. This is how we improve the efficiency of the device.
R: You have also listed options for developers. What can they do with your SDK?
DJ: See, at the end of the day, the user experience is what makes a device successful and to create fantastic user interfaces you need developers. With our SDK the developers can create intuitive dashboards (the main screen of the Fuel Book app) based on user preferences. For example, guys can have The Iron Man or Avengers based themes while girls can go for Barbie or some other milder things. We already have quite a few people working on making the app better and better and whats more is that we are offering our SDK for free so that anyone with an idea can develop for us.
R: I know it’s a little bit early to ask at this stage but do you have any other future products in mind like accessories or something?
DJ: We do have a few things in mind, the first one is a virtual HUD that you can keep on your dash and it will project a small display that will have all the information. We are working on integrating your phone calls, messages and other entertainment options so that you don’t have to use your phone to check anything.
R: Winding up, what’s the Fuel Book going to cost?
DJ: The base cost is $169, though we are offering limited pre-order pieces for just $69. The virtual HUD will set you back by $189. We have more accessories and stuff planned once we complete our funding goal.