I’m out of town for a few days, which means I’m driving a rental car. This rental sure is making me feel right at home, though, because like most of the vehicles I’ve owned through the years, it’s shedding parts. Thing is, I’m not exactly sure what this jettisoned component is for.
I mean, I’ve got a basic idea. This is clearly a device that plugs into the OBDII port under the dashboard, meant to either receive or transmit data to the car’s computer. The thingy has a standard OBD plug on one end and (according to resident gear-knower Steve DaSilva) an eight-pin Molex power plug on the other end. Check ‘em out:
The fiendish thingy fell out from under the dashboard of my rental about 10 minutes after I picked up the car. Thankfully, I was sitting at a red light, and the doohickey just clonked against my ankle. If I was moving, and the device had wedged itself behind the brake pedal, that could have been a bad scene.
The website listed on the back of the device goes to a company called PowerFleet, which advertises “on-demand visibility, intelligence and insights to power your fleet.” The company pitches its equipment at companies that operate huge fleets of vehicles — like construction companies, delivery companies, and of course, rental car companies. For the latter, PowerFleet’s site promises to offer your enormous rental car agency the following capabilities:
RentalFleet® lets you dive deeper into your car rental operations, gaining insights to help you streamline processes and drive constant improvement. Specifically built to automate car rental and return processes, RentalFleet provides the real-time visibility needed to see the big picture. Bring intelligent solutions to work for your car rental fleet, and put your operations on the road to improvement.
- Increase fuel revenues and reduce fuel costs
- Optimize car return and processing speed
- Quickly see open slots on the ready line
- Gain real-time insight into your inventory
- Easily install in any make or model
- Download future software upgrades wirelessly
- Massive library of OBD-II code interfaces
That’s a rather vague list, and it doesn’t necessarily clarify what this device was doing dangling loosely from my rental car’s footwell. Is it meant to be permanently installed? Is it something that an employee plugs in to download/upload data after a rental car is returned? I presume the latter, and I assume that the employee tasked with processing this particular car simply forgot to remove the device.
But it’s not great to have a big, clunky piece of electronic hardware looming perilously over the driver’s footwell, whether that’s by design or simply by mistake. And I’m curious to know the specifics of how this device is used by rental car companies, and what data it collects. Is my rental company going to download my telemetry after I return this car? Will I get an email telling me where I could have picked up a few tenths? Am I braking too early on the interstate off-ramp?
If you work in the rental car industry, or you otherwise have specific knowledge of what this device does and how a rental company might use it, drop your knowledge in the comments below.