Instead of staring at the ‘check engine’ light, you’ll get an alert to your phone about what’s wrong.
Openbay, an online marketplace that assists with booking auto repairs, is moving the vehicle-repair diagnostic process online. The Boston-based startup recently announced it will roll out its newest service, OpenbayConnect, which allows the company to read error codes in cars and then matches users with local shops that can perform the required service.
The app relies on your car’s OBD II diagnostics port, which was made mandatory for cars built from 1996 onward, into which you plug a cellular-enabled, Openbay supplied device. Rob Infantino, the company CEO and founder, explains the service like this: “You’re driving down the road and your check-engine light comes on; within a minute or two you’ll get an alert telling you here’s the issue, here’s a shop that can repair, you can get it fixed this week.” The app is currently available for iOS.
The app will roll out with an early-access program for select users based on locations and year of the vehicle. “One of pilot areas will be in Boston, and we’ll pick vehicle owners that have cars that are eight-plus years old.” The participating mechanics will be vetted according to existing consumer review platforms, such as Yelp.
Infantino says he envisions this service helping independent mechanics, who primarily service vehicles that are out of warranty. “Dealerships are trying to generate new revenue. They’re losing the service to independent shops. Ultimately, the consumer makes the decision on where they get their cars serviced. They can jump up and down and scream, but if you get estimates, you make the decision.”
Openbay already offers users the ability to choose a repair shop for specified repairs. The app is only intended for basic diagnostics and does not cover vehicles that have been in collisions, but even so is said to be the first of its kind to come to market. Companies ike Automatic,Progressive Insurance, and Delphi are also very keen to access your OBD II port.
Barry Steinburg, CEO of the Boston-area Direct Tire & Auto Service, has tested the software. “I think there’s going to be less angst about cars getting fixed,” Steinberg says. “The downside is if someone wants to find the cheapest possible place. Openbay is more about getting good quality that people are happy with.”