If you’re environment conscious in any way and own a car and want to get the most out of that car through efficient driving, I highly recommend you read on. I want to talk about an app or your phone which I read about a while ago and recently had the opportunity to take advantage of. That app is Dash (Android, iTunes (I know the app exists for Apple products, but I can’t find the link at the time of writing)) and it will change the way you drive.
Dash aims to turn your car into a smart car (not a Smart Car, no one wants that). By using a built-in port on 1996 model cars or newer, you can get more out of your car than you could imagine. All you need to do is connect a bluetooth device to this port (mine cost about $15 with shipping from Amazon) and then sync the app with it (this is a very similar device to the ones insurance companies use to watch your driving, but instead of connecting to their servers, it connects to your phone). It couldn’t be much simpler to set up. Once you’ve done this, your phone can get all the information out of your car’s computer. With that information, it can tell you whether you’re a good driver. I know a lot of people who need to use this, mostly everyone on my daily commutes.
My favorite part about the app is that it tells me how my driving affects my fuel economy. In the “Advanced Mode” I can see the instantaneous MPG, but I’ve found this really this doesn’t help your overall driving so much as the trip average does MPG. This is the main screen while driving. There the number for your MPG and then a bar that changes colors while you’re accelerating and decelerating to let you know if you could be doing it better. Red is bad. Green is good. Simple. Many times I catch myself trying to get the number just one higher before I shut off my car. For me, it makes driving more fun and a challenge.
When you’ve finished your trip, Dash gives you a summary of it with the basic information highlighted and tells you a few ways to improve on your score. The one that gets me the most is “Avoid Idling” which happens a lot in a city which is overly populated with stop signs and traffic lights. In the app’s perfect world, you’d be driving at a steady speed from your origin to your destination. Dash also assigns a score to your trip and it averages that score in with all the others. I’ve hovered around 89 and 90 since I installed the app. After the first fill-up while using the app, my MPG for the tank (which was about three-quarters full) went up two points over the past couple months of average MPG. In a twelve gallon tank, that’s like adding an extra gallon of gas at no charge.
In addition to helping you drive more efficiently, Dash lets you know where the best place nearby to fill-up is. You can view local gas stations based on both nearest and cheapest. More than helpful for me to find out that the station 0.2 mile from my apartment is not always the cheapest (though more often than not it is).
But one of my favorite features of the app is the ability to tell you what the “Check Engine” light means. I can’t count the number of times the light has come on in my car and I’ve had no idea what it means. I’ve been able to read the code with a friend’s code reader and then by using my own, but even then it doesn’t really tell me what’s wrong. Dash will read the code for you, tell you that there’s an engine problem, tell you what the code is, and give you a general idea of what needs to be fixed. It goes even further and giving you an estimate on the cost to repair the code (though for the code my car had it didn’t know how to fix it and told me it was $0 to fix, but in their defense I don’t think my car even knows if it has a problem or not because the light comes on every now and then and then goes away mysteriously).
I’m told that I can compete with my friends with my driving scores, but since none of my friends are using this yet, I can’t (if you decide to get it, or already have it, hit me up). I like the social and gaming aspect this creates. I would need to be the best driver.
Finally, there’s a lot of potential for the app. Since the app is automatically connected to the car when my phone is in range (this can be disabled) it’s ready to go as soon as the car starts with nothing else required from you. But it has a lot of things it could do, say the makers of the app. In theory, it can control most aspects of the car. It could (un)lock doors. Roll windows up or down. The developers even talked about the possibility being able to do a remote start (though it wasn’t clarified whether this could be accomplished on a car that already had the functionality or not). Really, there’s a lot of potential for this app and it’s all resting on the backs of the developers.
In short, I highly recommend this app for anyone wishing to improve their car efficiency and health. If you do decide to give it a try, consider trying it on the cheap Bluetooth I suggested above as it’s worked great for me (then maybe move up to the more expensive ones if the situation calls for it). And in all seriousness, hit me up firstname.lastname@example.org and we can find a way to share our scores and compete.