Delphi upgrades your 'dumb' car to a smart one

With cars as with televisions, the main drawback manufacturers face when introducing the latest high-tech features is that consumers don't upgrade these big-ticket items frequently. Instead, people opt for cheaper DIY options that prolong the lifespan of otherwise dated technology. When it comes to television, that alternative was a set-top box. Meet the Roku of the car world.

Hot off the heels of a partnership with Verizon, Delphi at CES showed off its Vehicle Diagnostics, a plug-and-play device that transforms "dumb" cars into smart ones. Connecting to the vehicle's OBD II diagnostic port, which exists on all vehicles manufactured since 1996 — making this sort of like the USB drive of cars — the CMDA-enabled auto accessory can:

  • Locate your car (like Find My iPhone, except for your auto)
  • Set up alerts when entering or leaving a preset geo-fenced area
  • Send alerts about your vehicle's status, from fuel levels to engine health
  • Diagnose issues based on your car's trouble codes
  • Allow you to control your car remotely

That last one in particular is most intriguing, replicating your car's key fob on the app. Based on how advanced your vehicle is, this means you could lock and unlock the doors, pop open the trunk, sound the alarm and start the engine from anywhere in the world so long as you have a data connection. "Your key fob went from a range of 100 feet to unlimited range," said Craig Tieman, advanced concepts and market develop manager at Delphi. Say goodbye to keys accidentally locked in the car.

In the event you want to communicate with your car but are in a reception dead zone, you can also connect via a modified Bluetooth technology that allows for faster response time of about six seconds. In contrast, standard Bluetooth typically takes a minute, Tieman said.

With a system that can be updated over the air, Delphi intends to add more capabilities, such as route tracking or alerts when the car alarm goes off, to Vehicle Diagnostics and the accompanying app.

Specifics on pricing weren't available, but Tieman said each unit sold will include two years of service. Overall though, we're excited about the promise this simple gadget holds. Maybe this can stave off plans to replace that clunker by a few years. At the very least, the device will tell you what's wrong with it.

See more of Delphi below in our video and gallery.

Posted on location at CES 2013 in Las Vegas. Photos by Alice Truong for DVICE.

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