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Voyo device retrofits cars with smartphone-controlled immobilizer, gas-saving idle-stop

Voyo connected car system
Voyo plugs into a car's OBD2 port, usually located under the dashboard, and sends data to your Bluetooth-connected phone. Voyomotive

Automotive startup Voyomotive takes advantage of a car's OBD2 communications port and relay architecture to enable a multitude of connected and engine control features aimed at improving fuel economy and security. The company's device, called Voyo, reads manufacturer codes from 1996-and-after model year cars and connects to your smartphone.

Voyomotive founder Peter Yorke stopped by CNET's offices to demonstrate Voyo. The device was installed in a rented Chevrolet Equinox, which Yorke used to show how easily it could be installed in any recent model year car.

With the Voyo device paired through Bluetooth to his smartphone, Yorke enabled idle-stop in the car with a control on the Voyo app. Stopped in traffic, the engine shut down, then started up again when York lifted his foot from the brake pedal. Yorke said the device gives drivers better control of idle-stop over cars that offer it as a standard feature, as Voyo simply requires a double-push on the brake pedal to make the engine stop.

Idle-stop helps save fuel by turning off the engine while stopped in traffic. Automakers have different methods of enacting the feature in their cars. BMW, for example, requires a hard press on the brake to cause the engine to shut down, with lighter brake pressure letting the engine run.

Voyo is designed to take into account battery level and other factors when activating its idle-stop feature, just as it does when built in by a manufacturer. However, air conditioning or heating may shut down with the engine, depending on the type of car when using Voyo's idle-stop feature.

The Voyo app also shows approximate stop light cycles based on crowd-sourced data, letting drivers know when the light is about to turn green. It measures the amount of time that idle-stop has been engaged, then shows how many gallons of gas the feature saved.

Plug and play

The main Voyo device plugs into a car's onboard diagnostics port, known as an OBD2 port, enabling it to read running data from the car. This port is present in all cars from model year 1996 and up, and is usually located under the dashboard. With a GPS chip and Bluetooth transceiver, the device communicates with the Voyomotive data center through a Bluetooth-paired smartphone, sending data and the car's location. Enabling further control, Voyomotive offers relays, auxiliary devices that plug into a car's fuse box.

As with other OBD2 devices, Voyo remotely monitors cars, showing the GPS location and alerting the user to incidents such as hard braking.

Voyo includes a number of security features, such as an immobilizer and automatic door locking. With the immobilizer activated, the car cannot be started unless a previously paired and registered smartphone is in proximity to the car, even when the key is present in the car. Voyo can also be set to automatically lock the doors when its associated smartphone moves away from Bluetooth proximity with the car.

Yorke pointed out that, instead of just relying on Bluetooth authentication for security, the Voyo system uses a 256-bit AES encryption between smartphone and car, ensuring only registered smartphones can access the system.

Kickstart

Voyomotive is launching its connected car system as a Kickstarter campaign. The device itself costs $99, with additional costs for the relays that enable further features of the system. Voyo will launch with a base set of connected car features, with more available through subscription.

The idle-stop feature for the initial launch of the device will only be compatible with some GM, Ford and Toyota vehicles. Other features of the system will work in any 1996 model year and after car..

Automatic locking features of the Voyo connected car system will only work on cars with central electronic locking. The idle-stop feature may also not work as well on cars with large engines.

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