If there’s one new innovative automotive technology India isn’t quite ready for yet, it’s driverless cars. In a country where the roads are far too chaotic to trust a robot to navigate, we in India have resigned ourselves to knowing that for the foreseeable future, we’ll probably have to do our own driving. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some new tech in your car, does it? Also Read - Nokia 5310 Review: A heavy bet on XpressMusic nostalgia
Now, car tracking might not be particularly hard with luxury vehicles, but what do you do if you want to keep track on your not-so-expensive car? That’s where products like Carnot come in. Priced at Rs 5,499, this little device plugs into your car and gives you a plethora of diagnostics, tracking and driving information, conveniently packaged and delivered onto an app on your smartphone. In this review, I also take a look at the working of Carnot. Also Read - DxOMark has received offers of money to review cameras on many occasions
It’s just a dongle
Physically, the Carnot is nothing more than a simple dongle and some peripherals that go with it. The rather chunky dongle plugs into your car’s OBD (on-board diagnostics) port, which gives it both information and the power required to run. This port uses an industry-standard design and can be found on all cars manufactured after 2008 and many cars made before that as well. In my case, I used the Carnot with my 2012 Toyota Etios Liva, with the OBD port located to the right of the steering wheel, close to the bonnet-release switch, but the location of this port will be different depending on the vehicle you use. Also Read - Xiaomi Redmi Y1 Review: Embracing the selfie
Once you’ve plugged the device into your car’s OBD port, you’ll need to give it some time to establish a connection. The device itself has a special data-enabled SIM card which lets it communicate with the server, as well as GPS connectivity to give you proper location tracking. Depending on the location of the OBD port in the car, this may pose a problem. Fortunately, the box includes an extension cable for the dongle, letting you bring the dongle into view for GPS connectivity.
The app provides you all the information
The Carnot processes its information and provides it to you using the Carnot app, which is available for Android and iOS smartphones running Android 4.3.1/iOS 8 and above. Once you’ve signed in and linked your account to your device using the unique code that comes in the box, you’re ready to go. You can access segregated data for all of your vehicles through the app, provided you have individual Carnot devices in each vehicle.
The default view when you load up the app is a map where you can see the current location of your vehicle as well as the date and time when it last pinged its location. Since the Carnot uses a SIM card and mobile data to send and receive information, the connection will be interrupted when you’re in areas with poor network, such as a parking basement. The map view also has a quick-tap button for fuel pumps, which shows you the location of the nearest fuel stations to you through data found on Google Maps.
An icon near the top takes you to the car’s diagnostics screen, where the Carnot pulls information from your vehicle’s diagnostics system to give you information on battery health and coolant temperature. A single tap will also let you scan for errors, which can potentially flag any issues in the vehicle as detected by the diagnostics system.
The settings menu lets you add vehicles to your list, toggle alert settings, add vehicle documents to an e-locker, input details on service history, and connect to the free roadside assistance service or customer support. Alert settings can be set for a variety of functions, including for accidents, towing, night driving, rash driving and geo-fencing, where you’ll receive an alert if your vehicle goes out of a pre-set perimeter. Some of these are particularly useful if you don’t always drive the vehicle yourself, letting you keep track of the way your car is being used by others, such as family members, chauffeurs or anyone you might lend your car to. You will even receive an alert when the Carnot has been pulled out of the OBD port, so it isn’t possible for any misuse to go completely unnoticed.
The second major screen is a list detailing all of your trips, as recorded by the Carnot. The time and date of the trip, distance covered, mileage, average speed and drive score are recorded, along with a rough map of the path of your trip, are all recorded and available to view. The drive score is calculated based on various factors such as over-speeding, hard acceleration and braking, eco-driving, idling and gear changes. The score is somewhat randomly assigned, but serves as a motivational factor to drive better and safer.
There are some inaccuracy issues here, with the map not always recording the exact path of your trip, and the mileage sometimes being overestimated. However, you do get a fairly accurate set of information and records on the usage of your car, which helps you keep track of the way your car is being used.
At Rs 5,499, the Carnot is inexpensive and represents great value for money for the functionality it offers. Keep in mind though, that the service uses a data connection and is only free to use for the first year, after which there will be subscription charge of Rs 900 per annum. If you need this level of tracking and information, the Carnot is a great way to add smarts to your car, particularly if you aren’t the only driver and you need to keep an eye on how the car is being used by others.