Automatic.com has just launched an accessory called the Automatic Link which connects to your car’s on-board computer, via an industry-standard connector. From there, the Automatic Link sends information over Bluetooth 4.0 (which uses less power than previous versions) to a smartphone via an app. At the moment, only iOS is supported, but Automatic has planned an Android version “in the fall”.
Automatic Driving Assistant uses real-world data from the car’s on-board computer to provide feedback on factors that impact fuel consumption (and therefore money) like speed, braking and acceleration. Typically, each car has its own optimum fuel efficiency speed, so the app can keep an eye on whether or not you are driving close to it. Sudden accelerations are also known to consume much more fuel than smooth accelerations.
The application can help you track this and provides subtle sound clues to tell you help you reach the optimum driving if you want to. This is the money-saving part, and given that drivers spend thousands of dollars each year, savings in the 20%-30% range (depending on current habits) would not be insignificant.
But Automatic Driving Assistant does more than optimize your gas budget: it can also accurately keep track of your trips (it knows when the engine is ON/OFF etc…), provided that the smartphone GPS is turned on. As it gathers the data, the software can display it in a clear timeline. Since it can accurately measure fuel level, it can compute your “real” fuel consumption for each trip. But there’s even better: the software makers have a gas station database (with gas prices!), so they know exactly how much you paid when you refuel (it knows how much fuel there is/was too, obviously).
The last feature that I liked was the additional information provided when the “check engine” dashboard light turns ON. It’s easy to become anxious when that light turns on, and most people have to go to the mechanic not knowing what it is. Automatic Driving Assistant can simply look at the error code and provide you with a clear error message. This is similar to what your mechanic sees when they check your car using their own diagnostic tools. Sometime, you can take care of this yourself, sometime you cannot, but at least, getting some information helps.
To make things easy for users, there is no subscription associated with this app, and you basically pay $69.95 for the Automatic Link accessory that connects to your car computer. From there, you can access the service for free, for the lifetime of your Automatic Link. Since your smartphone is the “brains” of the operation, you need one and it is assumed that the GPS will be turned ON if you want to geo-data, and that data-connectivity is available to access the service.
All in all, it seems that this would provide the type of application that car makers will probably not have for years to come, because it is so slow to approve and integrate anything within their product cycle. What do you think? What matters most for you in these features?