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Technology  30, Jan 2014

Vroom Vroom! Race your car to the cloud to make it smarter

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Want to make your car more powerful? Clickdrive claims it can link cars to the cloud via apps to make them more efficient

Click Drive from 36frames on Vimeo

With the spectre of global climate change and increasing carbon dioxide emissions, there has been a race among car makers to make more efficient vehicles. At the same time, drivers are expecting more from their cars, wanting them to be powerful and comfortable than ever before.

Of course, such problems can be solved by technology and the judicious application of data and analytics, as shown by myriad industry sectors ranging from logistics to banking to even the government. It, thus, comes as a little surprise when one looks at the current crop of IT-enabled smart cars, which mainly comprise higher-end models and operate on proprietary, mutually incompatible systems. (BMW’s iDrive, anyone?)

Enter Clickdrive, the brainchild of ex-banker Mark Sutheran and latency engineer Rishi Saraswat. Before Sutheran entered banking, he tinkered with cars and computers, hacking into the car’s “brain” — the engine control unit (ECU) — through a laptop, tweaking the engine’s power and fuel consumption.

“I wanted to build a Bluetooth app for the feature phones then to connect to cars, but the technology just wasn’t there yet,” he said, adding, “It was only until I left banking two years ago that the technology has progressed far enough to create the system I tried to make so long ago.” It was then that he collaborated with Saraswat, who was doing performance monitoring of low-latency systems in banks at that time. Together, the idea for Clickdrive coalesced, and then transformed into the product it is today.

How does it work?

One of the main frameworks behind the implementation of  Clickdrive is the fact that most cars use a common data standard, the on-board diagnostics (OBD), to transmit data from the car’s ECU, gearbox controller, and other subsystems to the mechanic. “This system is the reason why we’re able to implement Clickdrive,” Sutheran pointed out. “This is how Clickdrive gets data from the car for apps to make use of,” he added.

Apps are what make Clickdrive a platform, rather than just a smart car system. The opening up of the car’s data feed to the cloud via Clickdrive also opens up a whole new world of apps that can analyse this data to benefit the driver. “For instance, racers and enthusiasts can keep two separate profiles for their car’s settings, one for everyday driving and the other for weekend track days,” explained Sutheran.

Indeed, racers and tuners are likely to make up a significant market for Clickdrive, with their desire to wring the most out of their vehicles and their competitiveness. “They can also use it to keep track of their lap times, compete with friends, and even line up their rival’s car virtually when they do laps at Sepang (the motorsport race track in Malaysia),” Saraswat shared.

Save up on the fuel

That said, the ordinary driver has much to benefit from Clickdrive as well. With the rising cost of fuel, many drivers are looking for ways to cut down their trips to gas stations and make their tanks last longer. “Environment- and cost-conscious drivers can set up their fueling profile, where Clickdrive records their acceleration and fuel consumption, creating a matrix that finds out the best, most efficient way to drive,” noted Sutheran.

Even governments and corporations can make use of Clickdrive to make better vehicle-related decisions. For instance, Clickdrive can act as a car’s “black box”, recording the status of the car prior to an accident to determine the causes of an accident and culpability. In addition, insurance companies can also make use of data collected by Clickdrive to analyse a driver’s driving habits. “They can offer lower premiums if you can prove you’re a safe driver,” Saraswat elaborated.

Read Also: Cut the hassle for car insurance with SmartInsurance

To control Clickdrive, drivers will need to download an Android or iOS app for their phones or tablets, where they can view and change their car’s settings through the apps installed on Clickdrive. In the future, Sutheran envisions that displays connected to Clickdrive will replace the clunky dashboards in cars now. “Currently, adding gauges is tough, and you need to drill holes on your dashboard to mount your custom ammeter or boost gauge,” Sutheran said. “With Clickdrive, your iPad becomes your dashboard, and you can add or remove as many gauges as you want depending on your needs,” he added.

Since January 27, 2014, Clickdrive is being crowdfunded through Indiegogo, with a target of US$100,000 by March 15. The first 100 drivers to pre-order Clickdrive get the device for US$249, with subsequent devices having a pre-order price of US$299. The first few bundled apps include a dashboard app showing the car’s gauges, driving and data recorders, and a fuel saving app.

Read Also: [Updated] From the makers of Summon Auntie, Caarly gets you to shut up and drive

Terence Ng

Terence Ng

With a few failed and unrealized startups under his belt, Terence is no stranger to the startup landscape. He hopes to start something big. Someday. Meanwhile, he is content with bringing the latest startup and technology news to both professionals and lay readers alike.

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