smartcarspot-01New cars are coming out with all kinds of new technology and functionality. But what about the rest of us that aren’t ready to buy a new car? It turns out that you can teach old cars new tricks!

In the 1980’s, California started to develop regulations that would help officials make sure cars weren’t spewing too much smog into the atmosphere. This led to a requirement that all new cars have a plug overseers could use to make sure vehicles were compliant. The federal government followed with similar rules in the 1990’s, the net result being that most cars on American roads today (probably including yours) have a little port under the steering wheel that any mechanic or smog-checker can tap into in order to access the car’s data-the kind of thing that happens out of sight while you’re in the waiting room. This system is known as OBD, short for on-board diagnostics, and the devices that plug into the OBD port are often called dongles.

Companies like Zubie, Mojio and Automatic sell dongles that act as a translator and analyst, taking data from the car and beaming insights to the driver. Some come with monthly costs for cellular service and some don’t, but the devices tend to run around $100.

For example, Automatic, which uses Bluetooth (so there’s no monthly fee), has its own app, which uses the data from your car to show you how much your fuel is costing, how you can improve your driving and to keep track of all your trips. If you accelerate or brake too hard, wasting gas and possibly being a nuisance to drivers around you, the device will “tsk, tsk” you with patterns of beeps.

Here are some of the most well known add-ins to make your car smarter. Click on them to go to their website:
Automatic
Zubie
Mojio
DriveMode