TomTom Curfer – Driving aid and vehicle monitor


I seem to spend a lot of my time in my car, on average just over 2 hours per day and drive around 60+ miles in that time.  In all fairness this is a lot less than in previous years, in fact in my 20 years of driving I have covered approx. 750,000 miles in cars, vans and motorbikes in all sorts of weather both in the UK and Europe.

With this in mind I’d say I have a well rounded level of driving competence, yes I’ve made mistakes over the years and I hope I’ve learnt from them and yes my driving isn’t perfect – I’m human after all!

TomTom contacted me and invited me to test their Curfer, of course they weren’t aware of the amount of driving experience I have and how much of my life has been and is spent in my car!

What is it?

The Curfer is essentially a combination device, part of it is the hardware that connects to the diagnostic port (OBD2) in your car (standard on petrol from 2004 and diesel from 2006 but where found on earlier models) and the other is software on your smartphone that also takes readings from the various sensors built into said phone (such as GPS, accelerometer etc).

Bring all this together and you have a package that monitors the health of your car, your driving style, can track your journeys and even act as a parking beacon so you can find your car in the carpark.

In the box.

Not a huge amount in the box, but then again there doesn’t need to be – one thing I’ve found reviewing products and in just normal purchases, somethings come in oversized packaging with excessive amounts of paper that no-one ever reads.  The curfer box contains the following –

  • TomTom Curfer
  • Quickstart guide

Yes that was everything! (Easy to recycle all the packaging and a small manual for my manual collection).

Setup.

Setup is simple, connect to the app store (iTunes or Google Play) download the Curfer app and then follow the prompts to create an online account.

Next is the car section, select your car and again follow the simple on screen instructions to locate the OBD port and attach the curfer – the app even has the option to turn on the light on your phone to use as a torch.  Then turn on the ignition when prompted and wait for the app to finish syncing.

Use.

I’m going to split this section into 2 parts as the application is a two part app (although its rolled into one).

Vehicle Health.

I like stats, especially those that are live and useful which is why I have an OBD2 monitor in the car.  Now a word of warning, I bought a splitter so I could plug in both the Curfer and my X50 so I could compare values.  This was a failure, not because of either device but due to the CANBus system, it has a handshaking protocol with the first device it sees and then that device gets all the data, in this case the Curfer was the master and the X50 didn’t get a look in!

Anyway, the Curfer has a list of monitored engine values which it reports on – data is only passed to these if the vehicle manufacturer supports the relevant OBD PID, for me there are several readings that Renault/Dacia don’t support.  The values they do support are still very useful for monitoring your engine health as shown here.


As you can see there are also some values that aren’t reported correctly (such as my 89% throttle position at idle!) but again this isn’t the Curfer but is Renault/Dacias OBD implementation – I see the same values on other OBD monitors too.  You’ll notice at the bottom there are greyed out values, these are the PIDs that aren’t supported by Renault/Dacia.

Now for me this is the part of the app that could do with some enhancement to make it shine – this page needs to be editable and allow you to select what PIDs it displays and their order, it should also support all available PIDs even if the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t support them – that way if you change your car and find you have more supported PIDs then you have more info to look at!

Which logically leads to a fully configurable dashboard page to enhance this page.


Having a configurable dashboard page to select multiple PIDs to display and also to pull through data from the driving style part of the app would change this from a good app to an outstanding app and device.

Driving Style.

This is the main function of the Curfer and is an interesting insight into your driving style.  Basically there are 4 segments

  1. Acceleration
  2. Braking
  3. Cornering
  4. Idling

At the start of your journey these are all at 100 with an overall score of 100, as you drive along various sensors record all the values above and then start to score you.

For example, a heavy right foot will show as harsh acceleration, up will pop a message and an audible notification – your score will also drop!  The amount it drops depends on how much acceleration you do, for example a quick pull out may drop it 5 points, a full on grand prix style traffic light start will probably drop it considerably more.  (Please note, I don’t drive like this, I don’t condone driving like this and I didn’t test the Curfer in this way – but I know it happens and see people driving this way, don’t be that person)

Now something that did get me to begin with and took a couple of days was cornering, nothing harsh but I kept noticing that I’d drop a couple of points on roundabouts, this is a little frustrating as some roundabouts are sharp (such as mini roundabouts), the negative camber on UK roundabouts may also be a small factor.  Yes you can stop it from dropping if you drop your speed but on some roundabouts this is a massive drop and is too slow for the road and the driving conditions.

The other thing is idling, I do spend some of my driving day in rush hour traffic and its never dropped me for idling as there is always constant movement – where it did drop me points for idling was waiting at traffic lights, they took more than a minute to change and it dropped points for this!  My car is only 2 years old but it doesn’t have stop/start tech found in many cars (including more recently manufactured versions of my Dacia) so its not designed to be manually stop/started at each set of traffic lights I pass through each day. (24 sets of traffic lights on my standard 32 mile drive to work)

But there is good news, as you continue to drive your scores (assuming you drive normally and sensibly) will slowly climb their way back up and bring your average back up too.  My daily average worked out at 95/100 and I even managed a day where the traffic light gods were on my side and managed a clean 100/100 in 2 trips covering 74 miles.  This also meant I have been collecting various medals/trophies along the way – which you can show off and compare with your friends who use the Curfer.  There is also an added bonus, as your driving style changes to beat your score you’ll find your fuel economy will also improve thus saving you some money, how much it changes depends on your current driving style and how much you change that style, for me I only gained 2mpg on average over the course of 3 tanks of fuel.

There is also that competitive nature where you have to beat your previous score which means you start to fully concentrate on your driving rather than being on autopilot and start planning further ahead than you may do – “how fast should I go over this roundabout so I don’t lose points” “please lights change now so I don’t get too long idling” and so on.

There is a feature where you can track your journey and then examine it to see where you had points dropped, this may appeal to some but most of the time you’ll remember that annoying beep telling you that something wasn’t quite as good as it could have been.

And you can also use the app to locate your car, I didn’t test this as I always remember where I park, but I know for some people this would be very useful (including someone I work with).

Verdict.

This is both excellent and frustrating, but not in a bad way – it causes you to really examine your driving style and if you are that sort of person you will want to beat your previous score.  It can be quite addicitive but remember its an app and doesn’t beat road sense and experience.

The engine health is very handy and with some tweaks it would be a very good replacement for my OBD monitor as it would allow me to have both the monitor and driving style rolled into one, meaning I can monitor all the little values I like to see and also see how well/not so well my driving is at that time.

The only negative point I would say is the cost, its £59 which is past that magic £50 mark – it’ll appeal well to those who want to see their driving style and monitor basic engine health but may not appeal to the die hard need to know all the stats on their car tech type as it only provides limited values and there are apps/devices that provide this for slightly less.

If you are interested in buying one, click here

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