John Gattuso Thinks Your Future is FIXD

The FIXD app, its team and its story is a snapshot of contemporary technology and entrepreneurship.  John Gattuso, a student at Georgia Tech’s “Startup Lab” gets an idea sparked from his experience as a car guy.  Mix in a few smart friends, $30k from Kickstarter, some time for R & D–and you end up with FIXD, an app to help you understand the messages your car is sends via it’s OBD-II port.  The Android Beta version began shipping in late October 2014, with the iOS version coming on soon as well.
We took a few minutes to ask the self-titled “Chief Energetic Officer” more about the app, the story, and the state of  “Connected Car” technology.


 

FIXD logo, courtesy of FIXD

Logo courtesy of FIXD

HECN: Tell us the backstory of FIXD.

JG (John Gattuso): FIXD started in a class at Georgia Tech. The class, called Startup Lab, taught us how to culture the idea for a startup. We were encouraged to find a problem with the world. Being a car guy, people would always call me asking what was wrong with their cars or if I could help fix them, so I thought if people were calling me they must have a problem. That was just my opinion, so to validate we had to go out in the world and talk to people. We started talking to strangers about problems they were having with their cars and learned that this check engine light was really confusing and it caused anxiety in people. Is the problem severe? Can I make it home? Do I need to get it fixed right away? How much is it going to cost? We found people were asking themselves these questions when this light came on, so that is what we designed FIXD to solve. The idea first started in March and after we realized it was a problem we started thinking of ways in which we can solve it. That is where the OBD-II port came in. We made a video of us faking it, made a website, and drove traffic to see how people reacted to the video. The traffic/conversion numbers showed a lot of promise, so we decided to start making prototypes. We launched a Kickstarter to further prove this was a viable idea and received enough funding to get us in full development mode.

 

 

FIXD app Good to Go screen, courtesy of FIXD

Image courtesy of FIXD

HECN: How is FIXD better than Metromile, Automatic, and other OBD II port-based products?

JG: Those are all different services. Metromile is saving you money on insurance. Automatic (Dash, Zubie, Mojito, etc) is helping you save money on gas. FIXD gives you peace of mind about the state your car is in and then helps you understand what is going on when a problems occur. We are the best at this because we aren’t just throwing features at the wall and hoping things stick. Each function of FIXD was built because hundreds (yes, we individually, face-to-face, interviewed hundreds of strangers) of people told us that these things were a problem for them.

 

 

FIXD Caution Screen, Courtesy of FIXD

Image courtesy of FIXD

HECN: Automobile makers are notorious for creating proprietary systems that discourage customization.  What has changed? Is it that there is more innovation around the data emanating from an OBD II port?  Or is there an effort among automakers to invite innovation from outside their walls?

JG: The SAE has mandated that certain parts of the OBD-II code base must be standardized on all makes and models. There are however a section of them that are reserved for manufacture-specific codes and they have manufacturer-specific PIDs. These things can be licensed from the manufacturers and some third-party entities, but we are trying to work on these things through partnerships.

 

 

FIXD Stop Soon screen, courtesy of FIXD

Image courtesy of FIXD

HECN: There are two schools of thought around automotive apps.  One is that all apps should be vehicle-based, meaning they should be part of the onboard entertainment and information platform.  The other school believes that integrating the smartphone to the car is the way to go.  Is there common ground between the two?

JG: I think there is definitely a common ground. On higher end vehicles in-vehicle wifi is coming fast which will allow for greater use of the cars infotainment system to deliver the things these phone-based apps are trying to deliver to the driver. That being said people with older cars and cheaper cars should not be left out to dry because they don’t have an infotainment system or in-car wifi.

 

 

FIXD Service Timeline screen, courtesy of FIXD

Image courtesy of FIXD

HECN: Should automakers enable the coming car-based Android Auto v. Apple CarPlay platform wars?  Or should they look at agnostic systems useable by any smartphone technology?

JG: I think car makers have to enable the Android Auto vs CarPlay war. How many times have you gotten in an older car with GPS and just pulled out your phone for directions? I do it every time. The auto makers put this software on these cars and then its out dated in a year, but you own the car for 10 years. That doesn’t make sense. Allowing the car to be a natural extension of your phone is the future. You get in the car and all your apps are right there in the car and they can all update as needed through your phone. Also, the driver doesn’t have to have in-car wifi because they can just piggy back on their phones data plan. The problem OEMs are facing is distracted driving, so they would need to limit certain apps to only be used when the car is not in motion or even start utilizing Heads-Up Displays for things like maps, incoming calls, and music.

 

 

FIXD Vehicle History screen, courtesy of FIXD

Image courtesy of FIXD

HECN: Is there a carmaker that is leading on the “Connected Car”?  If so, who and why?

JG: I think Tesla has been a leader in this space (predictably). They have been pushing software updates to the cars for years. You pull in your driveway, the car connects to the homes wifi, and it can then update. There are also several automakers who are introducing 4G LTE capabilities to their cars (Audi, BMW, etc), this is the current trend it seems.

 

 

 

HECN: What can we look forward to with FIXD?

JG: Look for constant improvement. As we begin to rollout we will start seeing how our users are taking advantage of FIXD and what we need to work on. We are really excited about the possibilities on the backend as well. We can start plotting certain parameters against time we can see spikes in the cars vitals. From that we can try to warn our users that something will go wrong even before anything happens. For example, if we track battery voltage, we could possibly warn them to change their battery because in two weeks they will get in the car and it won’t start because of a dead battery.

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Copyright 2014 Hybrid and Electric Car News

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