The idea may be a good one, but to call your new car-based predictive technology "Smartcar" seems like you're asking for a lawsuit from Daimler, the makers of the Smart car. But dig a little deeper and you realize that the plan could work, and whether or not Daimler bites is something we'll let the lawyers decide. In the meantime, here are the details on what the Smartcar for the Tesla Model S is all about.

"Whenever you can automate something, that's where the value comes in" - Smartcar CEO Sahas Katta

The idea is that your car, using the Internet and a Smartcar subscription, should be able to figure out what time you head off to work each day. Once it does, it can have the cabin at the right temperature (heated in the winter, cooled in the summer) and the battery charged for the drive by the time you're headed out the door. The automated system can also tell the charger to only slurp electrons when lower-cost nighttime electricity rates are in effect. The slightly confusing part is that the Model S already has the capability to program nighttime charging built-in and it can also be pre-conditioned remotely without the Smartcar system, you just have to tell it to do so with your smart phone (see one happy driver doing just this in frigid temperatures in the second video below). The difference with Smartcar is that your Tesla will soon be able to do all this stuff automatically. For example, the system "predicts the required range for your next journey" and "will only delay charging to off-peak hours when it can confidently determine your vehicle will have enough range available for the rest of the day." Smartcar is being designed for the Model S and the upcoming Model X, but the developers say "we're working to bring support to connected vehicles from other manufacturers in the near future."

Tesla Model S Smartcar

The lead developer behind Smartcar is Sahas Katta, who readers might remember from his GlassTesla project, which integrated Google Glass with a Model S. We called him up to ask why it makes sense to pay $100 a year for a Smartcar subscription when the features it offers are available in the car's default settings. Katta had obviously thought the arguments through, and told AutoblogGreen that he knows plenty of Model S owners who don't remember to set these triggers every day. "Whenever you can automate something, that's where the value comes in," he said. "We're very inspired by Nest."

Katta is "confident this will be in every car on the road in five years."

Automating the process can make financial sense, Katta said. In California, he said, electricity rates can be different not only based on the hour, but also based on the season and weekends vs. weekdays. Tesla owners know they should be charging during off-peak hours, but many don't bother to look up when the rates change all the time. They should, though, if they want to save money. A Model S that goes 15,000 miles a year using nothing but peak charging in the San Jose area will use about $1,800 of electricity. Using Smartcar's automated "only at off-peak hours" setting, the same 15,000 miles would cost just $1,000. It's numbers like that that mean Katta is "confident this will be in every car on the road in five years."

Oh, and what about a possible legal challenge? Katta said he researched the name, and discovered that Daimler certainly has a trademark for "Smart," the actual name of the brand, but neither Daimler nor anyone else owns the Smart Car trademark. Katta has of course filed paperwork to claim the rights to the name.

Smartcar is not a reality yet, but it is available for preorder here. So far, the project has received $1,200 of its $50,000 goal, with 30 days yet go in a crowdfunding campaign. The cost for a Smartcar subscription will be $100 a year, but if you pre-order, the price is cut in half. If the goal isn't met, Smartcar says it will refund all pre-orders. Katta said he thinks he's earned the trust of the Tesla community, since over 220 people are using GlassTesla, and that, "we're not foreseeing that we'll miss the goal."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yawn. My crappy little i-MiEV can be programmed to charge at off-peak hours. I can pre-heat/pre-cool my car by using my BRAIN and figuring out where I'm going that day. Let's focus our energies (no pun intended) on something that has a decent cost-to-benefit ratio. Having my car predictively pre-heat/pre-cool my interior saves me about 15 seconds of doing it myself on the remote. Not a big cost-to-benefit ratio.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Tough building a business on a function Tesla could implement itself for free in a remote software update.
        • 1 Year Ago
        And tesla is also working on a smartphone "projection" (my guess is similar to the Motorola Atrix phone and lapdock). This way Tesla can focus on car-centric updates... and for the user infotainment type software, Tesla doesn't have to worry about keeping up with rapidly changing mobile phone technology. The touchscreen of your smart phone will simply project into the 17" display, and can be operated from it too. Expect a list of Tesla-enabled Android and iOS apps soon.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Model S wouldn't have happened on time if it wasnt for Elon and Tesla fitting the battery pack in the smart car in 2007 and impressing the Daimler executives giving them a 70 million dollar contract.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The Model S (né "Whitestar") was originally planned to come out in 2009. Due to the massive redesigns, no one would claim that the Model S came out according to schedule. From an article from way back in 2007: "Eberhard and Musk see Tesla Motors as a Ford Motors of the 21st century, and are already at work on a $49,000 four-door saloon, codenamed White Star, scheduled for 2009." (By the way, do you get free coffee in a Tesla Store like Musk promised? Just curious.) Another article that mentions 2009 production: "Of course if a base price of $98,000 is out of range, Tesla‚Äôs cheaper Whitestar is due out towards the end of 2009." Then, an article from 2008: "Though he was glib on the topic of the Whitestar, he did divulge that they were shooting for a late 2010 date to launch production and that his engineering teams were hard at work developing the powertrain and creating a static mockup." Deliveries began in 2012, several years later than Musk originally planned. I certainly point out that the plans changed 100%, going from a PHEV based on a Ford Fusion to an pure BEV of an original design, so feel free to argue that the Whitestar and the Model S shouldn't truly be considered to be the same project. My point is that Tesla's planned second model, a sedan meant for 10-20K unit annual production, was severely delayed because of the dramatic change.
      • 1 Year Ago
      While this project makes sense it does also does not make sense since tesla has either already talked about adding similar features or will do so most likely in the next year or so. I would also never put my cars password for access to it on some 3rd parties system potentially giving them or a hacker access not only to my car but also to my tesla account.
      • 1 Year Ago
      How to get press: Try to attach your name to other, successful companies.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just a matter of time before cars and grid become fully synced. Allowing for major security concerns... and major benefits for energy storage.
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