Over the past few years, we've told you about several products that connect drivers to their cars in new and helpful ways. According to Wired, a start-up called CarKnow plans to raise the bar significantly higher, connecting cars of the last decade directly to the internet.
Plug-and-play services like Automatic and FIXD offer consumers greater access to information about their vehicles, diagnosing engine problems and even offering tips on better driving. Most use a physical gadget that plugs into a car's onboard diagnostics port, paired with an app that can interpret data from the car.
Those services are great for consumers who are simply interested in demystifying the process of auto repair and maintenance. However, they don't do much more than read data provided by the vehicle, and they certainly don't allow owners to do much in the way of tinkering.
That's where CarKnow comes in, via a product called Carduino.
If you follow tech news even a tiny bit, the name Carduino will sound familiar. It's a play on "arduino", a platform of small, simple, open-sourced computers that budding scientists and engineers can configure to turn lights on and off, control robots and drones, or countless other things.
Carduino takes the arduino concept and applies it to automobiles. It consists of a smart device that operates on its own open-source platform -- a platform that includes a range of Carduino-specific apps. As Wired reports, once the device is plugged into your car's diagnostics port, you might configure those apps to roll up your windows automatically when it begins to rain or lock your car doors from miles away. Or, you might build an app of your own to suit your particular needs.
Communication between Carduino and your car is made possible by the controller area network, or CAN, which exists on all cars made for the U.S. market since 2008 and many that were built as far back as 2004. CAN allows various components of your vehicle -- the cruise control system, the transmission, the brakes, etc. -- to "talk" to one another. Carduino gives users access to that same network.
To ensure safety, though, Carduino can only carry out a set of white-listed commands. True, in any networked system, there will be room for hacking, and Carduino is no exception. However, given its open-source nature, CarKnow hopes that a community of eager participants will help identify and close any loopholes that baddies might want to exploit.
Unfortunately for those of you with tuners on your holiday shopping lists, Carduino isn't on sale yet, but it's expected to hit the market within the first three months of 2015. Stay tuned.