San Diego-based Networkcar has launched an aftermarket vehicle-to-satellite telematics system -- tied in with vehicle onboard diagnostic (OBD-II) systems -- for which the company claims a number of advantages.

Networkcar's CAReader is about the size of a cellular phone and is said to be compatible with about 80 million 1996 and newer vehicles. At an initial cost of about $600 for the first year (presumably less later), CARreader provides the following features:

  • Vehicles with a DTC (emissions problem) will have a description of the trouble appear on the user's personalized Networkcar Web page.

Motorists will be advised about causes of temporary OBD-indicated faults, to help avoid fees and unnecessary repairs. The system monitors "pending DTCs, but users will not be notified until they become real, or 'hard' DTCs."

  • As the company's database expands, make/model/year pattern failure -- including short life component information -- will be "offered to various related parties." (Networkcar is not clear whether this includes the vehicle owner.)

  • A tie-in with California authorities is being negotiated that will permit automatic compliance with I/M (inspection/maintenance) emissions-test requirements, i.e. eliminating the need for the vehicle to be tested at an I/M station. The system automatically will monitor when all readiness codes have been set after repairs to meet the required 45-day limit on retesting.

  • The system can be linked with the subscriber's repair facility of choice.

The Networkcar system also provides a variety of other telematics features somewhat similar to General Motors Corp.'s OnStar system.

Although CAReader offers other useful functions, all of the emissions-related information comes from the vehicle itself -- and if auto makers would so-equip their vehicles, could be detailed on an instrument panel display rather than going to a third party and back to the motorist via a Web page.