Founded in 2006, Mechanic Advisor, had built a solid, Yelp style, reviews business helping consumers find quality, local mechanics. By the fall of 2014, for their next innovation, the company wanted to take advantage of the open scanning port in vehicles manufactured after 1996 (ODBII). If you've ever taken your vehicle to the mechanic and been told that they need to scan it to determine the problem (and charge you for it!), it's the ODBII port that they're connecting to.
By developing the Mechanic Advisor Connection Key and associated iOS app, significant knowledge could be put into the hands of the consumer.
- Customer journey maps
- Wireframes (Axure)
- Prototypes (Axure)
- User stories (index cards and Basecamp documentation)
- Functional application flows (Omnigraffle)
Due to the lack of easy to understand documentation and the increasing technical complexity of the vehicles we drive, consumers are often at a significant disadvantage when discussing vehicle problems with a mechanic. Does the "Check Engine" light mean that there's a critical malfunction or is it something trivial like a loose gas cap? How does the consumer feel when paying over $100 to find out the issue is merely the latter? Additionally, what about common maintenance tasks (oil change, tires, brakes, etc) that we all know we should do to ensure our safety and extend the life of our vehicle? Those tasks are rarely performed at the frequency at which they should occur.
Could we develop a system that would alert the consumer with appropriately emphatic warnings regarding both ad hoc problems as they arise as well as scheduled maintenance tasks?
The Connection Key and associated iOS app solve the above problems by creating a mobile application environment that maintains constant contact with the vehicle whenever it is turned on and in range via Bluetooth LE.
These codes number in the tens of thousands and differ by manufacturer in some cases. That said, once a vehicle catalog database has been built based on freely available documentation, significant value can be delivered to the target user population. In the case of Mechanic Advisor, this meant cataloging the codes, assigning severity, and then building an interface by which the user is alerted in real-time as a code is generated by the vehicle.
In additional to reporting ODBII codes, the Connection Key also provides a constant report of the vehicle's odometer mileage. Using this data, we created interfaces making it simple to alert the consumer to upcoming maintenance items that, assuming the alerts are acted on, will extend the life of the vehicle.