Making your car smarter has never been easier with the recent advancements in connected car technology. Vinli out of Texas is the latest company to develop an OBDII adapter to connect your car – 1996 or newer – to the Internet. After a successful Indiegogo campaign last year, we have the unit in hand and are ready to increase the intelligence of our car.
The Vinli connected car adapter itself will run you $200 for a single unit, $390 for two units, and $750 for the four unit Family Pack. The initial price includes free service for 24 months to allow the Vinli to communicate with the network. After the first two years you will need to pay $30 per year for each unit to stay activated.
Once your Vinli is in hand you can go to the MyVinli site to create an account and associate it with the device. Once you enter the Case ID, you can set what you would like to label your devices, such as “Wife’s Car,” “Knight Rider,” and so on. To finish, you will simply need to plug it into your car’s OBDII port for the network to recognize your Vinli and finalize the pairing with your account. The Vinli unit that plugs into the OBDII is rather large at around 2.5 inches and can protrude a bit into your leg space, depending on your vehicles. When tested in a 2005 Honda Element and 2016 Jeep Cherokee, this wasn’t much of an issue but we could nearly graze it in some driving positions.
Communicating with your car
To begin to enlighten your car to the new connected world, you must first download the MyVinli application for iOS and Android. The MyVinli application clearly shows the data on your driving stats, info on your latest trips, any engine issues, and even assign a driving performance score. On the main dashboard screen, the application shows your current vehicle location and the three latest trips you have taken. The trip info shows distance, time driven, and the max speed, but is missing quick access to info like fuel cost and economy.
Driving with Vinli, we were also able to see an insightful driving score which goes down the more it senses hard braking, hard acceleration, or higher engine load. This should certainly come in handy to help monitor your habits or those of any teenager in your family. We were able to maintain an “A” most of the time but did get the score to dip down to a “D” within some heavy stop-n-go traffic with six hard brakes and six hard acceleration deductions. If the app were grading on a curve, this would be what we call a “Los Angeles B Grade”.
The MyVinli application clearly shows the data on your driving stats.
Within the MyVinli application, there is a screen of “Services” that gives you access to more in-depth details and quick access to important features. The Roadside Assistance feature under Services gives you instant access to a list of the closest towing and auto body shops, with links to call when trouble arises. Accident Response allows you to add a contact number that the system can text in the event that it senses an accident. This could come in very handy in a severe accident or absolutely terrify your spouse if you hit a speed bump a little too hard. The last My Service Shop area gives deep insights into the recent performance of your car including errors, engine load, miles per gallon, and things like average speed and fuel used.
Companion mobile applications
When first connecting the Vinli and using the MyVinli application, you will begin to notice the somewhat limited information it will provide on your drive. The reasoning behind this is that the Vinli is gearing the device as an open platform to let app developers expand the capabilities. Similar to something like the Mojio device, there are multiple applications developed from Vinli to get you started and additional support continuing to pour in from other third-party apps.
The four initial applications from Vinli include Lock and Key, Beagle, Drive, and Home Connect. Lock and Key is rather basic and simply lets you “arm” your car to send you an alert notification or SMS any time your vehicle is started or moved. Beagle is a feature to further help track any young drivers or lead-footed significant other in your family by giving you an alert if a vehicle exceeds a certain speed or if they leave a certain area such as school, work, or home. You can even send text alerts if a driver leaves an area or exceeds a set speed. Drive by Vinli tries to create a gaming element around your drive and lets you compete with friends and family for badges based on your travels and driving performance. Last, the Home Connect helps your car talk to the smart devices in your home so that things like the lights and thermostat can be turned on or off when you approach or leave your home. In our testing of the Vinli developed applications they worked well and had a simple interface that was quick and easy to understand.
Best of both worlds
The DT Accessory Pack
Although your teen driver may not be excited at the idea of the VInli tracking their drive, they should appreciate the integrated Wi-Fi connection. Vinli can connect to the T-Mobile 4G LTE network to deliver high-speed connection to any devices your passengers may bring along. This is a great feature to integrate into the device as some buyers looking at items like the ZTE Mobley may be hesitant to give up their single OBDII port with additional features. The unit claims support for speeds up to 150Mbps, but we saw lower average connections speeds – 30 to 40Mbps – more on par with what we saw with the AT&T network that powers the Mobley. Data can be purchased online at $6 for 500MB, $15 for 1GB, and $40 for 3GB with auto-renewal whenever your data coffers get low. Those doing the math at home will realize that the smallest data package offers the best price at $12 per GB.
If you are looking for a great way to stay connected with your family when they are out on the road and help maintain your vehicles, the Vinli is a great start. However, the platform does rely on continued development of applications outside of the main MyVinli app to truly unlock the device’s potential. But the current list of supported applications should have enough features to help you get the most out of your connected car. The $200 price puts it well above most of the competition, but Vinli is one of the first to incorporate Wi-Fi and that may be enough to sway some buyers away from the less expensive Automatic or Mojio. Something like the Mojio will have better support from the native applications to track fuel cost and information for your business. But if you want to help keep your family safe and take advantage of great features like in-car Wi-Fi then you may want to make a connection with Vinli.