Next gen solutions to solve car costs


With the cost of car ownership set to rise as the federal government seeks to reinstall the fuel excise, a number of entrepreneurs are working away on smart solutions that solve common car dilemmas.

One such solution is Go Far, a device that tracks how efficiently a person is driving.

Founder Ian says he and his co-founder are currently working on the fourth generation of their prototype, and in trials have achieved results of up to 23% in fuel reductions.

“The problem is drivers don’t know when they’re wasting energy. Our mission is help drivers cut fuel usage and emissions, and make it really obvious when we’re wasting energy,” Ian says.

“Australians spend $31 billion every year on fuel for our cars. Globally, around $1 trillion – up to 25% of this fuel is wasted due to inefficient driving practices.

“We have a Formula 1 inspired LED display screen that gives real-time feedback to drivers. It’s really obvious when you’re wasting energy: green is good, red is bad.”

The smart device taps into a car’s data, and connects the user to the world via their smartphone. The founders says that because Go Far connects a driver’s right foot to their back pocket, it’s a real eye-opener when someone can see that their commute costs $7.36 for example. “Then you’ve got the information, and the motivation to try and chip away at that, and get it under $7, below $6, and that gives us a sustained gain.”

Currently the device is still in the prototyping phase, but has already taken pre-orders.

Similarly, the entrepreneurs behind new car share platform Car Next Door see their niche in cutting the costs of car-ownership for consumers.

Sydney-based Megan Donnelly says Car Next Door is a competitor to traditional car hire and car share companies.

The startup sees its opportunity in appealing to customers who want to rent out their car, and people who would like to rent one, and hence, build a dense network of car share opportunities across major cities.

Now in operation for fifteen months, Donnelly says Car Next Door works by turning private vehicles into shared cars.

“So we turn ‘Tom’s’ car into a shared car, by installing a device in his vehicle. He jumps online and sets his availability and pricing, and ‘Jane’ searches and books Tom’s vehicle – walks to where it’s parked, gets the keys out of the lockbox using the unique pin that we send her – and drives away.

“We charge Jane, we take a 25 per cent cut, pay Tom, and everyone is covered by full comprehensive car insurance,” Donnelly adds.

Current estimates price Car Next Door 40 per cent cheaper than its competitors, and the startup has onboarded over 80 cars and over 1,400 borrowers. The founders aim to grow the business to a network of 7,000 cars by 2018, servicing 130,000 borrowers.

The co-founder of ParkingMaestro, Mark Schroder (pictured), has targeted a less direct cost of car ownership, but one that is perhaps more frustrating: parking fines.

Developed with co-founder Patrick Acheampong to help motorists avoid parking fines, the smartphone app was developed with support from The University of Queensland’s ilab start-up accelerator.

The app works by warning a user when they should start their return journey to their car, based on the distance to the vehicle and the time remaining before the parking expires. Users either scan the street parking sign using the app’s image recognition function or manually enter the details of the sign or parking ticket.

The app then tracks their movements and uses an algorithm to determine how long it will take to walk back to the car.

Schroder said he experienced the problem first hand when living in the inner-city Sydney, and then again upon moving to Brisbane.

“Whether I was at home, at work or going out with friends, I realised my car was nearly always parked in a restricted area, it is a 24 hour a day problem.” he said.

“What compounds the issue is your car is nearly always parked in a different place every day, which can be hard to keep track of, and the time it takes to get back to your vehicle is easily misjudged, or you forget, which results in an expensive fine. Our solution was to develop an app that alerts you when you need to start walking back to your car, regardless of how far it is.”