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Automatic wants to make you a smarter driver

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March 12, 2013

The Automatic Link plugs into your vehicle's diagnostic port, and communicates with an acc...

The Automatic Link plugs into your vehicle's diagnostic port, and communicates with an accompanying smartphone app

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Perhaps you’ve got a decent, several-year-old car that you’re still happy with, but that you wish had some of the helpful computerized features of today’s newer models. Should that be the case, don’t go trading in your ride just yet. The Automatic system accesses your existing car’s onboard computer, then displays driving and diagnostic data on your smartphone’s screen. It could potentially save you money, trips to the garage, and even 911 calls.

Automatic consists of a small physical device known as the Automatic Link, and an iOS or Android app.

The Link plugs into your car’s OBD-II Data Link Connector, which mechanics routinely use to access the vehicle’s diagnostic systems. Such connectors are found in virtually every automobile made since 1996. Using Bluetooth 4.0, the Link device transmits vehicle data to the paired smartphone, which combines that information with data gathered by its own GPS, accelerometer, and other sensors.

One of the main things that the Automatic app does is to identify driving habits that cause excessive fuel use. These include rough braking, speeding, and rapid acceleration. Whenever any of these things occur, the app lets you know with an audio chime, plus it records the date, time, place and other parameters relating to the event. You can subsequently look at an on-screen map of your trip, to see where you have a tendency to “go wrong.” If you notice that you tend to speed along a certain stretch of road, for instance, you can make a point of checking your speed when approaching that stretch next time.

Some of the data provided by the Automatic app

Once a week, the app also provides you with an overall driving score, to let you know how fuel-efficient your driving is in general. It additionally records what mileage you were getting at any one point in your trip, and registers the date/time, location, volume and cost of gas fill-ups.

Should your car’s enigmatic “Check Engine” light come on, Automatic will read the diagnostic code, cross-reference it against the codes for your particular make and model of vehicle, and let you know just what the problem is – it could conceivably be something as simple as the fuel filling door being left open. The app will also offer possible solutions to the problem, and will clear the alert from the car’s computer (and from your dashboard) if you’re able to fix it yourself.

Using its own built-in accelerometer, the Automatic Link can detect when an accident has occurred. In such an event, it will use your phone’s data connection to send your name, location and vehicle description to the local 911 service, plus it will send notifications to pre-selected other people. Presumably, there’s a way of overriding this feature, should the accident not prove to be too serious.

Finally, the app will also help you find your car, should you forget where you parked.

Automatic is available now for pre-order, at a price of US$69.95. More information is available in the video below.

Source: Automatic via The Verge

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
11 Comments

Interested in the data gathering on your vehicle, not so much in the driving nanny.

Simon Sammut
12th March, 2013 @ 02:40 pm PDT

Bluetooth obd2 dongles have been available for many years now. I have had mine for 2 years and use it with an android app called Torque which has most of the features this article describes.

David Anderton
12th March, 2013 @ 06:44 pm PDT

There are many devices that will plug into the obd 2 port and give far more comprehensive real time data on many engine parameters than this unit ie the Scan Gauge 2. We really don"t need another "driving Nanny" .

Most people interested in this sort of device would be more interested in the other data accessible from the ECU.

Ron Raines
12th March, 2013 @ 07:26 pm PDT

Interesting but would the 2 above mentioned work on a smart phone and at what price as for me even getting 1 diagnostics from Renault is 80 pounds and is still often wrong

sheriffdude
13th March, 2013 @ 05:32 am PDT

Torque for the Android platform offers a great deal of information and many ways of looking at the data, in an easily user customizable package for a $5.00(US) price, and pairs with most bluetooth OBDII devices, which run in the $20-25(US) range. Even the free version offers significant access to the information from the ECU.

Michael Martell
13th March, 2013 @ 07:09 am PDT

Yes, I bought such a B/T plug at least two years ago for £12 and it runs perfectly on Android.

professore
13th March, 2013 @ 08:33 am PDT

Try ezway.pro for Android. It's not like torque.

Константин Митриченко
13th March, 2013 @ 12:59 pm PDT

My first thought echoed the comments above "hey, wait, there are cheaper and better devices out on the market for those who are interested." Then I realized: this is "the device for the rest of us" It even marks where your car is when you can't remember where you parked. It looks user friendly and performs the most commonly needed/wanted tasks apparently seamlessly.

The OBD units and software I've seen aren't quite user hostile...quite. I'm also willing to bet that this dongle will talk to the other packages for those of us who are interested in more information.

Overall, i would have to say that this is not exciting except that it's a Bluetooth dongle for "the rest of us".

Bryan Paschke
13th March, 2013 @ 04:45 pm PDT

Add this to newer models & retrofit on older ones

Huge market in Retrofits alone.

Stephen N Russell
13th March, 2013 @ 06:11 pm PDT

Yep, I got the one from an auto insurance company to qualify for discounts. They measure hard braking, lateral g's, acceleration and top speed. I took it with me during a weekend at the track.

Stomp on brakes late in the turn, 1+ lateral g's. Accelerate at the apex, top speed 183... (ZR1) ...What a surprise, they turned me down!

pickypilot
14th March, 2013 @ 08:10 am PDT

I have a 91' Audi 100, just prior to OBDII. Getting the software and info from Audi is difficult at best and always abusively expensive. Anyone know if there is a REASONABLY PRICED retrofit?

StWils
15th March, 2013 @ 11:38 am PDT
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