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Monday, June 3, 2019
Several years ago, Brennan Hamilton’s elderly neighbor’s “check engine” light came on. Concerned about driving with the warning light glowing, she planned to have her car towed to a dealership – 180 miles away.
But Hamilton's neighbor knew GoPoint Technology, the Michigan-based company of which Hamilton is the founder and CTO, had something to do with car diagnostics, so she asked him for help.
It was a smart move. Hamilton plugged in his GoPoint device and, using an app to communicate with her car, learned that it needed a new oxygen sensor. Other than reduced fuel economy, her car was perfectly fine to drive.
For decades, there’s been a barrier between vehicle owners and what’s going on under their hoods. As cars become smarter, they produce more and more data that can help break down that barrier – but only if drivers can access the necessary information. And mechanical issues are just the beginning. From its headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Troy, GoPoint makes various apps that use data to reduce distracted driving, increase fuel economy, monitor inexperienced drivers and more. The overarching goals of Hamilton’s GoPoint apps are giving vehicle owners control over their automotive data and bringing connectivity to any car.
“You could put a GoPoint Nix set-up in a 1956 Chevy, and you could track all the trips like it was a brand-new car with a telematics device,” said Hamilton. The company’s tech can lend intelligence even to a vehicle built in an era in which the idea of an “intelligent” car never entered anyone’s most elaborate dreams.
Dialing Up Auto Diagnostics
Interpreting a “check engine” light is just one function of the original GoPoint app. Connect your smartphone to your car using one of GoPoint Technology’s Bluetooth diagnostic tools, and the app can check for mechanical issues, service recalls and special service bulletins. And in case you’re worried the technology will put your local mechanic out of business, Hamilton said that’s not a concern.
“We sell a lot to mechanics, because mechanics are looking for quick, easy solutions to get to a root cause of a problem," he explained. "And a lot of them prefer using their phone."
A Fix For The Distracted Driving Scourge
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving took 3,450 lives in 2016. Hamilton’s company has developed an app that can bring those numbers down: GoPoint’s Auto app pairs with GoPoint Nix, a Bluetooth-enabled USB insert that blocks functionalities on phones while a vehicle is in motion, as well as tracks trips and more. Anyone can use the tool, but Hamilton designed it with commercial drivers in mind.
“If you’re a delivery driver, you’re on the road to get somewhere, and that handset in your hand is a distraction with some pretty big consequences,” he said. “Driving is boring, so anything to pass the time.”
GoPoint Nix can block all functionality on a phone except calls, maps and access to the phone’s voice assistant. Business owners can use it to make their drivers safer on the road. For personal users, Hamilton noted, it works like a personal trainer, helping to break bad driving habits. “We don’t want you texting and driving, and you don’t want you texting and driving, so we take away that ability,” he said.
Drive Monitoring For Parents
Distracted driving may be a relatively new threat to mobility safety, but GoPoint also has a product designed to address one of the longest-standing dangers on the road: teen drivers. The GoPoint Drive app, paired with a plug-in device, allows parents to know exactly where, when and how fast their kids have been driving.
“When they start a trip, you can get a notification. When they end a trip, you can get a notification,” said Hamilton. “You can see where they’ve been, what their maximum driving speeds were, a lot of information on the drive.”
As vehicles become smarter and more connected, they’ll continue to generate more data. But as with data generated by so many other commercial products, it can and will be shared with third parties, who can use it to market to drivers.
One of Hamilton’s goals with GoPoint Technology is to give drivers the opportunity to own their data instead. “What we do is to let you collect the data. You own your vehicle health. You decide what needs to be done with your vehicle and what you want to share about your operating data,” he said. “Instead of someone else having your data and monetizing it.”
Data is at the heart of the rapidly evolving world of mobility. Giving drivers access to that data only makes sense. From diagnosing mechanical issues to improving safety, technology such as GoPoint’s makes the driving experience better for everyone.
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