AT&T is joining the ranks of carriers that can bring a whole suite of connected car technology to older passenger vehicles. It’s launching the Harman Spark, an OBD-II dongle that adds diagnostics, tracking and LTE data to cars from 1996 and beyond. Unlike the old ZTE Mobley, this isn’t just about internet access. It can alert you to car trouble (including theft), help you find and pay for roadside help and locate your vehicle.
It could also be particularly helpful to watchful parents. You can create geofences that warn when the car leaves a certain area, and provide driving scores to teens who are a little too enthusiastic with the pedals.
The Spark will be available Sept. 28 for $80, although what you’ll pay for service will vary. You can spend $5 per month if you’re not interested in a hotspot, or buy a data plan (either stand-alone or attached to your phone service) if you want to get your kids’ tablet online. Although this won’t be a slick as buying a car with cell data built-in, it could serve as a valuable tool if you aren’t in a rush to replace your existing wheels.