Review: Can TomTom Curfer improve my driving?

TomTom CurferDisclosure: I received a free TomTom Curfer kit for the purposes of this review. I did not receive any payment and was not required to write a positive review.

The simplest way of describing the TomTom Curfer is like a Fitbit for drivers and their cars.

Just as Fitbit keeps track of your mileage and how many calories you burn, the Curfer keeps track of your driving style, mileage and car performance.

By connecting a small dongle to your car’s onboard diagnostic port (OBD) and installing the Curfer app on your phone, you can track mileage, routes, driving style and car performance.

The Curfer app will provide hints to help you improve your driving style and score you out of 100 in four key areas: acceleration; braking; cornering and idling. Naturally a higher score equals a better or more efficient performance.

TomTom recently sent us a Curfer to test out. At the weekend we had a longish journey planned, which seemed the ideal opportunity to put the Curfer through its paces. Installation is pretty simple. You’ll need to find your car’s OBD port and then simply plug the Curfer dongle into it. Install the Curfer app on your phone — it’s available for Apple and Android — and then use Bluetooth to marry the two together.

Depending on the location of your car’s OBD port, you may need the optional extension lead to make it fit. We did, as our car’s OBD port was inside the fuse box. The extension lead enabled me to tuck the Curfer away and refit the fuse box cover, which would otherwise have prevented me closing the glove box!

The connection to the OBD port is used to monitor a wide range of performance information from your car. As well as basics like speed and rpm, more data such as coolant temperature, battery voltage, air flow and intake air temperature are monitored.

The Curfer is advertised as being suitable for most cars made after 2004. What we found is that although the Curfer was compatible with our 2009 model car, not all of the data the Curfer can collect was available. For example, our car didn’t seem to provide the Curfer app with the fuel tank level, the oil temperature or the ambient air temperature. I guess what’s available depends heavily on the age, make and model of the car.

As far as I can tell, the Curfer uses a mixture of OBD data and readings from your phone’s GPS sensor to build a picture of your driving style and capture details of your route. I was surprised and impressed with just how detailed and accurate route logging was. This could be a good way for business drivers to log their driving without having to remember to make notes each day.

What kind of driver am I?

After a mix of local and long journeys, covering a total of four hours and twelve minutes, the Curfer reckons I’m a Comfort Driver and has awarded me Power User and Smooth Curver badges!

I scored an overall total of 91 for acceleration, 94 for cornering, 100 for braking and 100 for idling. This gives me an overall score of 96.

What does this mean? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Clearly Curfer approves of my driving style, which is good. But I wasn’t trying especially hard to be a model driver. My high scores did make me wonder how aggressively I’d have to drive to get a low score!

If you do manage to score badly, the Curfer app will provide hints and advice to help you improve your score. Ultimately, this should help you to reduce wear and tear to your car, cut fuel consumption and become a safer driver.

You can also look back through your journeys on a day-by-day basis and review your scores and route tracks for each trip. These are shown on maps. I can see that this might be useful for business drivers, both for record keeping and route planning.

Rather like Fitbit, Curfer also has a social aspect. You can share your results with other drivers and compare scores. If you do find your are scoring badly in a particular area, the Curfer app will offer advice on how to improve your score.

Is Curfer a winner?

To be honest, I’m not sure Curfer will be a killer success for TomTom in the way that its navigation products always have been. But I can see what the firm is trying to do.

Basic satellite navigation isn’t enough anymore. TomTom already provides additional services like live traffic information and traffic and real-time route planning. TomTom’s sat navs and routing have always been the best, in my view. Gathering telematics from drivers is an obvious extension to this.

I suspect that by continuing to work with vast amounts of driver, routing and traffic data, TomTom will find new ways to make our driving lives easier. Curfer is a useful step along the way.

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