Verizon Vehicle puts a mechanic in your car

In the early days of motor racing, the cars didn't just carry a driver, but also a riding mechanic to take care of any problems that might crop up along the way.

Verizon is now offering the 21st century version of this concept with its Verizon Vehicle service, which taps into a vehicle's computer system to detect mechanical issues before they lead to breakdowns.

If you were wondering why it sponsored IndyCar, there you go.

It uses a module that plugs into the on board diagnostic II port (OBD II) and links via Bluetooth to a cellular-equipped speaker that you can mount to a sunscreen.

Instead of just presenting you with a "Check Engine" light, it diagnoses the problem and sends specific information via text alert, and can connect you on the phone with a live mechanic that can provide more specific information and even a cost estimate for any necessary repairs.

In the event that something goes wrong, anyway, it also provides roadside assistance and automated emergency response. If your car is stolen, it can track that too.

The service is similar to that provided as factory equipment by several automakers, most notably General Motors' OnStar, but will work on any car built since 1996, when OBD ports became standard equipment.

The introductory price is $14.95 per month with one free month and free hardware, but a two-year contract is required.