Major luxury automakers are adding smartwatch capabilities to their connected car smartphone apps, allowing owners of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and the like to locate, lock or unlock, and remote-start their cars right from their wrists. But what if you’re fancy enough to own an Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch, but not quite so fancy as to run out and buy a brand-new luxury sedan to pair with it? Viper car security has you covered, with a new SmartStart security and remote starter system that lets you start pretty much any car from your phone or smartwatch. Siri, fire up the ol’ jalopy for me.
A newly added update to Viper’s long-running SmartStart system, Version 4.0 expands the smartphone connectivity of previous systems to your smartwatch. With the system installed in your car and the requisite app on your phone, you’ll be able to lock, unlock, and start your car from either your phone or your wrist, from anywhere in the United States, thanks to the power of the mobile web.
The system equips your vehicle with a CDMA/3G module that communicates with your smartphone over Verizon’s cellular data network. Since it’s cellular, you can use the app from anywhere in the U.S., even checking on the location or locked-door status of your car from across the country. A GPS feature shows where your car is at any moment, allowing you to monitor a the motions of whoever’s driving your car and sending alerts to your phone or watch if a preset speed limit or geographical boundary is exceeded. And if your check engine light comes on, the system sends an alert to your phone or watch, explaining the diagnostic code, while a single tap can summon roadside assistance in the event that it’s needed.
Viper brought a SmartStart-equipped demo vehicle to Car and Driver’s New York City office to show how the tech works. With an Apple Watch loaned to me by Viper paired to my iPhone and the SmartStart app installed, I was able to lock and unlock the doors, pop the trunk, and remote-start the demo vehicle with just a few taps on my wrist—or, more impressively, by just issuing a voice command to Siri.
The reaction time wasn’t quite as quick as what you’d experience with a traditional remote-start key fob—a few times, it took around 10 seconds for the signal to travel from my wrist, to my phone, through the cellular network, and down to the module installed in the vehicle. But nearly every command was executed, and status indicators on the watch and smartphone app made it clear whether the doors were locked and whether the engine was running or turned off. Like all other Viper remote start systems, you’ll need to insert the car’s ignition key and turn it to the ON position before trying to drive away, otherwise the system will shut off the engine if you try to shift into gear.
SmartStart 4.0’s remote-start feature is available on a number of different Viper car alarm packages, from basic remote-start-only kits to full security alarm systems. Viper says the kits are compatible with just about any car, although due to the complexity of the systems, professional installation is highly recommended. A complete SmartStart digital system starts at $399, or if you’ve already got a Viper security system installed, you can add SmartStart to your existing system for $149.
The iPhone and Apple Watch apps are fully functional, while an updated Android app that supports Android Wear smartwatches is coming soon. In addition to the kit and installation costs, SmartStart requires a cellular service plan you can purchase in one, two, or three-year installments.
Is this kind of luxuriousness absolutely necessary? Most certainly not. But being able to remote-start your car when you’re way beyond the range of your factory key fob is a super nice convenience feature, and anyone who constantly worries that they forgot to lock their doors will find the status cards on the phone and watch app a major peace-of-mind booster. Besides, if you already plopped down a few hundred (or more) for an Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch, we know you appreciate the convenience of having the world answer to your tiny wrist computer. by caranddriver