Automatic wants to make you a smarter driver
By Ben Coxworth
March 12, 2013
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.
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.