Manufacturer: Automatic Labs
Under the dash of most cars made since 1996, there is an OBD II port (Onboard Diagnostics port). When your car is serviced, a technician plugs in a diagnostic computer to this port and retrieves data about your car and its health, engine, compression, exhaust, oil levels, and more.
Since this OBD II data port is an integral part of your car, the folks at Automatic Labs developed the Automatic Link. This small device plugs into the port and transmits usable information to your iPhone via Bluetooth 4 Low Energy and a free iOS or Android app. Automatic is compatible with iPhone 4S and later, and Android 4.0 phones and above.
Each time you drive your car, whether to the local supermarket or a long road trip, you can see the number of miles traveled. You’ll also see a record of your gasoline mileage (based on current local prices), the number of miles traveled, total trip cost, and even a mapped timeline. Because the app uses GPS, it knows where your car is located; useful when you are searching for your car in a large parking lot.
The iPhone’s accelerometer accumulates data on rapid acceleration, hard braking, and speeds over 70 MPH. At each of these, a tiny musical note sounds to alert/warn you. At the end of your trip, you are given a total driving score taking into account each of these faults. These affect your mileage and over time can cost you money.
Retraining yourself to drive more economically is one of the objectives of Automatic. If you are an aggressive driver, you can rapidly offset the cost of this device with fuel savings. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t respond well to being graded on your driving, Automatic may not be for you. For the rest of us, it’s terrific.
There are a few reporting features that have limited availability. Some cars send fuel level info to the ODB II port. Automatic will report this information, but only on iOS phones. Most recent cars have a Check Engine light. Automatic senses this alert on many cars and will display what the error code means. You can even clear the light if you choose.
If your car uses special proprietary codes, they won’t be recognized or displayed. Automatic is partnering with many manufacturers to correct this. There are a few car models that won’t work with the the system at all. You can check to see if your car with work with Automatic.
Built into the device is a Crash Alert. You can enter phone numbers of family or friends and in case of emergency they will receive a text message. If you are involved in a collision, and your phone is still working, an alert is relayed to the nearest police and fire authorities. Use of this feature is optional.
I drive a Prius V and I find that the braking and acceleration warnings are a bit sensitive, but those probably relate to my driving habits. I was concerned that my ability to listen to music and podcasts via Bluetooth might be disrupted by Automatic, but they play nicely together. One doesn’t interfere with the other in any way.
Automatic is aimed at automotive enthusiasts, but it has many practical driving uses and benefits as well. If you have an interest in cars and an interest in saving money while you drive, you will learn a lot about your car and improve your driving habits with Automatic.
MyMac Review rating is 9 out of 10.