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Vinli is Turning Outdated Vehicles into Smart Cars

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【Summary】Vinli, a Texas-based startup that specializes in cloud-based driving devices, wants to bridge the gap between analog and smart cars through the release of a tiny dongle that aims to breathe life into cars stuck in the Stone Age.

Original Michael Cheng    Oct 20, 2016 6:50 PM PT
Vinli is Turning Outdated Vehicles into Smart Cars
Michael Cheng

By Michael Cheng

Smart car features can only be found in modern vehicles. If you want to be able to summon your car from the garage or ping it in a crowded parking lot using a connected smartphone app, you have to own a vehicle with smart capabilities. 

Vinli, a Texas-based startup that specializes in cloud-based driving devices, wants to bridge the gap between analog and smart cars through the release of a tiny dongle that aims to breathe life into cars stuck in the Stone Age. In 2014, the group raised an impressive $6.5 million in a Series A financing round led by Samsung Global Innovation Center. Other participants include Cox Automotive, Continental ITS and the Westly Group (an early investor in Tesla).

"We believe Vinli will change how people interact with their cars on a day-to-day basis by making cars smarter, safer and more enjoyable," said Mark Haidar, CEO of Vinli.

Taking Old Cars to the Next Level

Vinli's flagship adapter (costs $200) is designed to gather data in real-time via the On Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) port located under the dashboard. Since almost every car on the road today (1996 or newer) is equipped with an ODB-II port, issues with compatibility are virtually non-existent. In addition to syncing with the vehicle, the dongle also connects to the driver's smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0. 

In the past, mechanics used data from the OBD-II to troubleshoot problems related to the engine and car performance. Vinli takes things one step further by allowing users to create 4G Wi-Fi hotspots. This feature relies on T-Mobile's network and costs $6 per block of 500MB. You don't need 4G service to benefit from the core functionalities of the device. However, as you're about to find out, connectivity is essential for other cloud-based features, including a menu of robust apps.

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Vinli App Store

As mentioned earlier, the dongle connects to one's mobile phone, where it stores data and offers actionable insights. There are also numerous apps from the company's online app store that extends the basic features of the device. For example, downloading Dash, Flo and Drive lets you monitor your driving habits, fuel consumption and driver achievements. Otto and My Service Shop provides assistance with malfunctions, maintenance and other minor car issues. For professionals who are always taking business trips, MileIQ offers a streamlined approach to tracking and compiling one's mileage reports for future reimbursement. 

Parents with kids who are still getting the hang of driving might be interested in checking out the Beagle app. The app keeps a close eye on driving speeds when inexperienced drivers are behind the wheel. Using GPS features built into the device, concerned parents could also setup a perimeter around a target location. Out of the box, the adapter works with roughly 20 apps. By the end of 2016, users should have access to over 150 apps from the app store.

"Vinli is focused on bringing the most personalized, best driving experience possible to modern drivers, one that enables smooth connectivity to their favorite apps," said Luis Arbulu, Director of Strategic Investments at Samsung Global Innovation Center.

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