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September 1, 2013

From a car to the cloud

Delphi's plug-and-play diagnostics device does a ton.

Delphi engineers think they’ve produced the perfect back-to-school item in Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi, the first “car-to-cloud” device to arrive on the market.

Parents interested in making sure their kids are driving safely, and have a safe car to drive, might consider the little box, which plugs directly into the OBD-II port under the steering wheel.

It works in most cars made after 1996, and it acts, as Popular Mechanics put it, like “Lo Jack on steroids.”

Delphi’s box contains a modem capable of uploading real-time data from the car’s computer to Delphi’s servers from anywhere Verizon gets a signal.

Out since late March, the device is sold at Verizon stores around the country for $250. Right now, activation requires a Verizon data plan, so if your family already has a Verizon data plan, the service will cost you $5 a month additional.

It tracks miles traveled, will unlock your car doors if you have remote keyless entry, will check engine codes (and can even reset codes in some cases) and can send an alert if your car revs too hard, speeds too fast or is jostled in a parking lot.

Actually, there’s a whole list of things the diagnostics tool can accomplish, and new updates coming to make it even more powerful.

We sat down this week with Craig Tieman and Stefani Butler, an engineer and spokeswoman respectively at Delphi Electronics & Safety in Kokomo, to see all of the device’s capabilities.

“Basically what we’ve done is partner with Verizon to give your vehicle a voice,” Butler said.

Quite a fewer newer-model luxury cars already have these kinds of capabilities factory installed, through services such as GM’s OnStar.

But Delphi’s quick uplink speeds (six seconds tops between a smartphone touch and a door unlocking) and iOS and Android compatible interface are part of the reason the unit stands out.

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