I actually predict (hope?) this will take off more on the business side than the consumer side. Here's the problem:
Fleet managers (that is, people who are responsible for keeping track of/maintaining large numbers of vehicles used by a company) need a simple way of doing three things:
1. Locating their vehicles.
2. Getting data about their vehicles
3. Changing settings on their vehicles (i.e. lock/unlock, etc.)
That's really basically it. And you would be surprised how totally awful the existing solutions are for doing even two of them (most focus on #1). 3 is a bit more difficult as not everything can be done through the OBD port, but many things can.
There are, literally, a hundred different companies that sell products that do the first - usually in the form of a hidden box that has a GPS antenna and a (really crappy and expensive) cellular modem that pings a really expensive service via GPRS or some similar out-of-date tech and costs $30/month/device for service + $500 / device. It's absurd.
What every fleet manager actually wants: The Automatic device w/ mobile data transmission ability (i.e. not tethered to an iPhone). Let me a) see where my car(s) are, b) get telemetry from the OBD port, and c) interact with the car in whatever fashion is possible via the OBD port.
I know that's a 2nd gen product that I'm proposing - and I think these guys are smart to start with something that tethers to a consumer phone for data. But produce this product for a reasonable price and there are literally hundreds of thousands (millions?) of fleet vehicles on the road that will scoop 'em up.
And I think the use case is stronger for an enterprise product. I hear fleet managers (and myself) asking for this product every day. I don't hear consumers saying "damn, I wish I knew how efficient my braking was."
Anyway, the tl;dr is: Awesome. Eager. Good Luck!
(I thought the OBD port is decidedly "read-only"? Given how easy access is mandated by law.)
Well, it isn't, and what fleet wants to buy a whole new fleet of cars when they could just plug in a device? Additionally, a plug-in device will help demonstrate both to manufacturers and to customers that customers want those features.
Transitional solutions have value.
And it certainly isn't read-only :-)
A cell phone might have a 5 Wh battery (5.45 Wh in iPhone 5); car batteries are closer to anywhere from 500 to beyond 1000 Wh. If your phone can idle for two days with only occasional modem use (no screen and minimal CPU use), a car battery can do most of a year with the same load.
And of course your fancy monitor hardware would be able to detect that you're not moving for an extended period of time and decrease polling frequency to further lower the usage.
Still, just the lights will easily outweigh a consumer-grade cellular modem.
The main problem with these (all of them!) is that the OBD II was never designed to be used like this. It will run the device 24/7 even when the car is turned off. So it will run down your battery in a similar way to leaving the cabin light on would do...
Nothing dramatic but if you're a "city driver" (i.e. no high-speed driving to recharge your battery) then you could get yourself into a situation where you need to be jump-started.
So as I said, great concept, however until the OBD-II port is "fixed" so it can be switched on and off I wouldn't get one for my car. Too high a chance that I wouldn't use my car for a weekend and then find it wouldn't start on Monday.
Let's say your average battery has 40AH. That means it can provide 1A for 40h (or better, the product time(h) x current(A) = 40 for a charged battery) @ 12v
If your lamps consume 24W (I'm guessing), that's 2A, it means it would go from fully charget to nothing in 20h. But of course, your battery is usually not 100% and you need a certain battery capacity to start the engine.
Even if the consumption of this device is 1W while idle (which is really an exaggerated value), the device uses around 0.084A and the battery would take 480h to go from 100% to 0% (or about 20 days)
My guess is that an unpowered car uses more than that by itself, so this dongle is not an issue, unless you're leaving it unattended, you can unplug it but will probably run out of battery nonetheless.
At 1mA of current draw, this device is definitely not a problem. But the idea that an unpowered car uses enough power to drain the battery in less than a month is clearly ridiculous.
In a climate where 32F may be the highest temperature seen for months, a car sitting idle for two weeks can definitely be in danger of not starting due to the battery not being able to crank the engine after being cold-soaked at -20F all night.
If the battery is showing some age, and/or didn't go to 100%, less than a month is typical (depending on the accessories as well: alarm, stereo - some uses standby power, etc)
An older battery surely won't do as well, but then it'll do even less well with an extra 1W draw hooked up. No matter how you slice it, a load that will drain a car battery in good condition in 20 days is a pretty big load.
If you switch the alarm on, that budget increases to something like 120mA, but you'll kill the car inside a fortnight.
It's possible to build it to not use excess energy.
Personal anecdote: Last year I would not use my car for long stretches (between 2 and 3 weeks), as I was traveling. 2 weeks is doable, 3 weeks I'll be certain to have a dead battery on arrival.
I don't think most car batteries are dead after twenty days of not driving, and, as you said, most batteries aren't always fully topped up.
Most other electronic components are sub-100uA
OBD-II might be a standard, but as I said it was designed to be used while the car is in a garage, never while it is being driven. So there is no "standard" for manufacturers to position it.
I bet it could. But how would it ever turn its self back on? I mean if it is receiving OBD-II information then it knows when the car is running, but if it isn't (which it wouldn't be if it is "off") then it couldn't know to switch its self on.
Kind of a chick/egg problem.
You could run something like this for months/years on a car battery.
The company rep said in a previous reply that it consumes < 1 mA when the ignition is off, that's good enough.
The phrase you need to google for is "battery isolator". Unfortunately most are rated at like 40 amps for RVs and you want a 40 milliamp one. Many ham radio guys know all about little boxes that connect when the voltage rises above 13.7 volts and disconnect when the voltage applied drops below 13 volts or so. Traditionally you don't use a microprocessor for this, its a beefy FET and two resistors in a voltage divider and not much else. That can be kinda drifty and imprecise depending on resistor and FET tolerance.
Another way is the car squirts ODB-II "stuff" at the port when its on, so little more than a diode/cap/FET combined properly will more or less work.
The strangest way I ever saw relied on what amounts to "hearing" alternator whine over the DC bus. If the alternator isn't spinning while the engine's running, you've got issues. Any source of KHz range noise would activate them, including unfortunately high powered CB radios.
One reason to own a scan tool is to debug anti-lock brake sensors by driving around and noticing which wheel always reports zero... then replace that one sensor. This is far superior to random shotgun troubleshooting. Also while I had a thermostat problem I drove around quite awhile with my scan tool watching the thermostat misregulate my cooling system which is what led to failed readiness indicators because the engine never warmed up all the way only 99% of the way, etc etc. ODB-II is very old, like a college freshman, whereas this is a new iphone app. The equivalent for android, a program called Torque, is old. There are almost certainly HN posters younger than the standard ODB-II port. I bought a bluetooth ODB-II reader for my android/torque phone probably two years ago? It does apparently everything this new app does. My now antique orange physical scan tool appliance that cost me about $150 is about ten years old and obsolete, although it does still work. It is much tougher construction that my phone, which cost a lot more than $150...
One of the nicest Torque features is being able to reconfigure the gauge display. No point in being distracted by the oil pressure gauge when you're driving around if all you care about is a graph of the coolant temp vs time or peak coolant temp or whatever it was.
Some as wonderful as being literally right in the centre console, to being as horrible as under a mat in the passenger side.
Where is the connector located?
The connector must be located within three feet of the driver and must not require any tools to be revealed. Look under the dash and behind ashtrays.
Don't get me wrong though. I'm not saying any of this is wrong or bad. I'm just trying to imagine what the bigger picture here is for them.
In an ongoing effort to better understand and serve our users, we often conduct research on our customer demographics, interests, and behavior based on the Personal Data and other information provided to us. This research may be compiled and analyzed on an aggregate basis, and we may share this aggregate data with our affiliates, agents and business partners. This aggregate information does not identify you personally. We may also disclose aggregated user statistics in order to describe Automatic to current and prospective business partners, and to other third parties for other lawful purposes.
As we develop our business, we might sell or buy businesses or assets. In the event of a corporate sale, merger, reorganization, dissolution or similar event, Personal Data may be part of the transferred assets; in this event, you will be notified via email and/or a prominent notice on our website of any change in ownership, as well as any choices you may have regarding your Personal Data. We may also share your information with our subsidiaries and affiliates, if any.
I'm just assuming here that the phone app doesn't self destruct when there is no internet connection.
iPhone accessory manufacturer had a smartphone-OBD-II product called CarTrip which they discontinued:
As others have noted, you can buy the hardware yourself for pretty cheap:
Combine it with an app like Torque...:
...or Rev and you've got some of the functionality already:
edit: the advantage of Automatic is that it's an all in one solution for the mass market, rather than the DIY/car enthusiast nature of the existing apps and hardware.
This may have changed, so for now the conventional ELM### devices are Android/Jailbreak only.
As an iOS user, this alone makes me interested in Automatic's product.
With a Torque clone?
And you can make the screens as simple as this displays.
I guess this one is just easier out of the box.
I'm going to get a ScanGuageII soon: http://www.scangauge.com/products/scangaugeii/
Background: I showed Lockitron to my dad a while back, and he wanted it for his car. ie unlock/lock from his phone, or even by just walking up, like keyless-go on the mercs.
I did a bit of googleling, and it seemed like it should be pretty simple. Connect a dongle to the diagnostic port (inc CAN bus wires), and then fire the correct CAN messages down. On most modern cars you can pretty much control anything, from the locks, cruise control, windows, seats, radio, lights, wipers etc. The problem is the CAN message format isn't documented anywhere, and it varies from car to car. You would have to sniff bus, with lots of trial & error.
If there was a high level API, ie openDriverSideWindow(), I could image the community creating a whole host of automation possibilities. ie Open windows when the temp is above 30C, or turn radio down when I'm close to home.
Something that looks like a valid parameter on the bus, by simple sniffing and correlation, might not be what you think it is either. It might sound strange but it's actually very common for a signal in a message to bounce through several devices before it is considered valid and is picked up by the receiver. For example the first device might output the raw sensor data almost straight from the A/D-converter, the second device applies an LP-filter on it and sends it in another message, a third ecu applies some condition on the signal and forwards it differently if those conditions are valid and finally a fourth ecu is used just as gateway to transform the signal into another can-message because the receiving device is from a third party that doesn't support the standard message format for that parameter type. And I haven't even mentioned gateway between multiple can-networks yet. Even with system documentation it can be hard to know what a signals does.
When you realise that you can just send commands to a car and get it to do things, the possibilities you can think up are incredible
Which is a great idea, it just surprised me that they'd be willing to go there for a $70 device, even with the appropriate disclaimers.
I could image it being even safer with remote disable functionality like the iphone, or use it as a way to get home if you lost your keys.
Stats, Tuning, Android App, Bluetooth dongle: http://www.superchips.com/Store/VIVIDLINQ.aspx
App to work with any number of bluetooth OBD-II dongles: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.prowl.torq...
Personally, as someone who regularly changes drivetrain, tires sizes, gearing, etc. on vehicles, I'll stick with things like VIVID which do work pretty well for the most part. I can see a market for people who just want an easy app that tells them statistics and such (but those do already exist, just not as easy for the average user since they've been the domain of tuners for a while).
The next piece of software is $40 and works with three listed 3rd party dongles each over $100 (unable to find price from the one in Germany).
If these are Automatic's best competitors, they're going to clean up. They control the whole widget and they appear to have a good UI.
Crystal clear website, crystal clear video, an unaggressive logo, they precisely explain what the product does, and you know exactly how much it costs up front.
So well done.
At this point, I'm driving a beater with close to 200k miles on it and I want this product badly. I guess I just love collecting data.
How's my fuel efficiency related to the speed limit set by local authorities?
Some day when you are on a freeway without many other cars around, shift into neutral. Depending on your car model, you will lose 1-2 mph every second until you get to around 50 mph, when you will lose speed much more slowly. On a flat road it might take you a whole minute to drop the next 10 mph.
(Make sure you are in the right hand land before doing stuff like this. Also be aware that driving too slow can be as dangerous as driving too fast.)
1. It relies on the amount and quality of ODB data your car provides. The data is worth as much as the precision of the car sensors (fuel consumption on my 5 year old car is very unreliable).
2. "Upgrade your cars' capabilities" is just fluff. Your car doesn't gain any abilities.
3. I like the idea of making people aware of fuel economy but the quality of feedback is directly depended on 1. Bad sensors will give bad readings. If, however your car has state of the art fuel consumption sensors, chances are pretty high it's a nice car already showing that data right on the dashboard.
4. The emergency services will be contacted after a crash is detected by the accelerations sensors in your smartphone. A device that is loosely lying around somewhere in your car. In the assumption it survives a crash and isn't catapulted through the windshield landing 30 meters outside the range of bluetooth. Upon which it will give an auditive cue informing abrupt braking is bad for fuel economy and your social driving score will be negatively impacted.
The idea is great and has good uses. But for now it looks like a gadget bringing little new to the table. For the features it does have, only time will tell on how fail proof they are implemented.
That makes me itchy, and I'm not even planning on doing anything illegal.
There are a few industries which are obligated by statute to keep certain types of data at hand in case the government wants it, but I'm sure that wouldn't apply here.
2. If/when Automatic changes their policy it will create a negative reaction from customers that the policy is being changed.
It's a lot easier to promise protection of the data and let the customer decide whether they believe the promise or not before they sign up.
Meaning that a subpoena from them (barring AT&T) can’t necessarily get everywhere you’ve ever been...
Now this fascinates me. I wonder what parameters are required to trigger the automatic emergency notification.
Sudden deceleration + airbag deploy = 911?
Airbags are dangerous. Not as dangerous as not having one when you are in a car crash, so don't go taking yours out. I'm related to an engineer who worked on deployment, and the manufacturers worried a lot about only doing it in cases of true crashes. They aren't perfect but nothing is.
Yes the ECU has a state that detects airbag deployment but even the airbags can have a false deploy (see the most recent episode of Top Gear for a prime example).
It might be as easy as turning the car on/off/on/off/on in less than 10 seconds and reading the digital odometer, or as complicated as a 10-step process that spits out the codes to you as a number of flashes of the dashboard display.
That said, having an OBD reader could make you everyone's new best friend.
Try befriending your local mechanic. That'll be the real savings.
I'm not sure what the situation is in the US but here in the UK, if you took your car to a mechanic purely for the sake of reading the code then it would only cost about £50.
Granted, I tighten my gas caps like a gorilla these days.
It does not mean you get to pass your next inspection. The computer will know it was reset and tell the inspector's computer when it was done. You have to drive ~50/100 miles after resetting for your inspection to be legit. If the problem is still there, it will pop back up.
Basic OBDII stuff is very cheap these days
I am looking forward to the competition (and innovation) in this space.
There are some android apps in the marketplace for bluetooth OBD II devices that can be ordered for <$20 from China. I'd pay >$10 for an app with similar features to this if anyone's looking for an idea.
Now I'm carrying around a device that can reliably be used to issue me speeding tickets. What is my protection from that?
I have an iPad mini with LTE as my only mobile device, is there any reason Automatic wouldn't work with it? I'm ok with it running in a smaller window (the way iPhone-only apps run on iPads).
It also asks you to pick a car. Is that just to verify that it'll be compatible? I mean, is there anything stopping me from changing which car I use this device in or is it locked to use with the one car you pick?
At first I wasn't really interested in this device (I didn't see any uses of it for me), but then I realized that sometimes I like to drive super-economically, and if I had some sort of efficiency score to show off for that trip, that'd be pretty neat. That way, I could compete with other drives in who can drive the most efficiently.
911 response is interesting but not enough to push me into purchasing. Check engine info is interesting but again this happens so rarely I can't justify purchasing this thing. I don't see a killer app here.
In the interest of not being all negative, I'll tell you the types of applications that would be far more useful to me and I would pay for. I'll list these as "pain points" since I don't want to assume too much about what this device will make possible:
- When I suddenly realize I am low on gas, I have to awkwardly (and unsafely) find a gas station with Siri. Can this make this easier?
- When I am driving to meet someone, they have no idea how close I am or when I will arrive. Can this make that easier?
- When I get in the car to go somewhere, I have to punch in navigation directions or press Siri before I leave. Can this do a better job of somehow getting the GPS navigation started on my phone intelligently?
- When I am driving into a city, I have no idea where to find parking. Can this help me find a parking spot?
I realize these may be wildly inapplicable to this device but these are real problems that I wish someone would solve for me. It seems like a more intelligent driving assistant that doesn't require unsafe gestures to be made on my phone while driving could potentially be more possible with something like this. For the problems above, there is surely "an app for that" but I'm not using them because they require me to awkwardly remember to use them before I leave or require me to take my eyes off the road. If this can solve those problems for me in a contextually sensitive way automatically, it would be great.
I think there's a lot of potential here but it needs to be something that a) I will use all the time and b) I will get real, tangible value out of it, not academic understanding of my driving habits or a few bucks a month off of my gas by changing them. (Which, by the way, is another "thing" I now have to worry about: is Automotive telling me my driving is ok? What do I need to change? Now I feel like a loser when I don't "do well" one month.) It needs to make my life easier or allow me to do things behind the wheel that are valuable but currently hard/dangerous to do. I think there's plenty there.
I did it once with a weird combination of brake and pedal pushes. Kinda cool actually. Method name escapes me now.
1) Why isn't this available in Canada? All of our cars have ODBII after 96 as well.
2) Is there an estimated completion timeline? 2 months? 2 years?
This tool seems like a great idea. I'm going to get one when the android version is released.
There are several people within this space and going beyond the fact that, they’ve got a nice generic .com (important for this type of product) which the public can easily remember they actually have an interesting product which, so far appears better executed than the others in this space. As well as that they also have an interesting team behind them as well for instance their CEO Thejo Kote, was previously a founder of NextDrop which provides real value to people in India by informing them when nearby water is available (In case you’re not aware of this, despite having water pipes to them, water in India is only available for a few hours (usually once or twice a week) at a time and they have no way of knowing when that time actually is).
The product is useful for some of the reasons listed on their website such as the Crash Alert, Engine Health, Where You Parked etc. Although the biggest interest they will receive is through, external parties such as Rental Companies and Car Insurance providers etc (In otherwords, I predict their market is far bigger on the business than the Consumer side although, in some instances they overlap). The Car Insurance feature may actually become their biggest ‘feature’ for consumers in the future going forward “With Automatic you can get an Engine Health Check, Remember Where You Parked, In The Event of a Crash Inform the Right People and more importantly save $100’s on your Car Insurance!”
For instance, in the UK there are a lot of car insurance providers who give discounts to drivers who get a telematics policy aka install a “black box” within their car (something similar to Automatic without the additional features). These telematics policies in the UK are offered in 3 categories (the Behaviour-Based is the most common):
- Curfew-Based Policies – if you don’t drive between 11pm – 5am you get a discount
- Low Mileage Policies
- Behaviour-Based Policies (which Automatic does with their “Drive Score” points system) which considers how will you corner, brake and speed etc so the better you drive your insurance becomes cheaper, you drive badly you get penalised with higher rates etc.
Perhaps I am being too syndical and actually they are just trying to replace the, now illegal, female driver discount.
1. Will this be able to connect to more than one phone without significant reconfigurations? My wife and I own one car. It would be great to swap which phone to connect to depending on who is driving.
2. Will this need a tethering plan (or a jailbreak) for Automatic to use my iPhone's data plan? Since AT&T/Verizon charge extra for a tethering plan, even if you have a fixed data plan, that's an extra expense that you should mention in your FAQs.
A tethering plan is not required. The Automatic Link communicates with your iPhone over Bluetooth and uses your phone's data connection.
Yea, I know the phone company already does this but still, I'd like one less company doing it. Especially one that has no track record and is reserving the option to sell all my data when they sell the company and change the terms at any time.
I'd be happier if, like Google, there was a guarantee I could export my data (and not on some TODO list someday maybe but at launch). And, that I could delete all my data from their servers at anytime. Including, like i can on Google Latitude, any specific data. Latitude has a "delete this day's data" and a "delete all data" button.
Would I ever use these features? Probably not. But they'd make me feel good to know they exist.
I also want to be able to opt out of any and all sharing of my data. Even anonymous aggregated data. I'm happy to consider paying more for that feature. Even a yearly fee if it was relatively low ($10-$20 a year)
That being said, there have been man vulnerabilities in car software which is all proprietary and hasn't undergone any public review, so I guess it is possible.
They can but they are usually pre-programmed commands set by the manufacturer. Most electronic elements to a vehicle can be controlled with the correct manufacturer equipment and software that most branded dealerships have.
I mean at the very least it is used to control car keys. I know that because MANY cars are being stolen locally via the keys being reset using the OBD-II port.
They target particular models of a car. They drive around, find that car/model, then use a slim jim to open the door, plug into the OBD-II port, and reset the key to one in their possession - then they can just drive the car away as if it was their own.
(Apparently it is particularly straightforward on recentish BMWs, because the alarm has a dead area that allows a thief to gain access to the OBD port undetected.)
Doesn't say on the site, but is there an expected ship date?
Ah says in the email:
> You’ll only be charged once your Automatic Link ships in
May (for iPhone) and Fall (for Android).
Our Volkswagon dealership was going to charge me $110 to find out why we had a check engine light. I didn't know this is all they were doing. But thankfully our car was Certified so they waived it.
Looking forward to fun with this little device.
I would also be concerned (this seems to be an extreme edge case) that off-roading may trip the sensor. I try not to break my equipment, but I've seen some guys running their daily driver pretty hard, and it's not uncommon to have some extreme jarring going on if you hit a jump wrong or run over a log going a bit too fast. I can see a good deal of this functionality from the device being applicable even off the road, but having 911 pay you a visit down in a mud pit because your tire hit a rock and bounced off doesn't seem like a positive.
"If you use Crash Alert, in the event you are in a crash, we may share your location and personally identifiable information with emergency responders and your emergency contacts."
> Automatic uses your phone's data connection to immediately report the crash to 911 with your name, location, and vehicle description.
Automatic's GUI definitely looks nicer. If Automatic could automatically unlock the door when I come near the car after being away from it from a period of time, that would make this a must buy for me.
So if your car is newer than 1996 then you're good to go. Just assume you have it. If it is any older then check.
i'm a car guy and i've never heard of this before. source?
The check engine light is only used to indicate problems with the car's emission system. It is unlikely to provide anything actionable unless you're planning to get your car smogged soon.
Also, the check engine light is something that can display things that people would only consider tangentially related to the car's emissions system. Things like misfires, or even occasionally transmission problems, can also trigger this light.
How does that work? There's 11 counties in Wisconsin where you cannot register your car unless you pass a biannual smog check which for any post '96 car involves the OBD-II check for codes and readiness indicators. So no ODB-II port means no wisconsin license plate with very few exceptions (mainly antique cars and electric cars)
Maybe they would be willing to sell a lower tier product for the iPad with just that and none of the geo features? If so, TAKE MY MONEY.
I wonder if there are future partnership opportunities?
Looks like a great product though!
They do real time diagnostics + crash notification = Much better deal.
The Automatic Link supports both classic bluetooth and bluetooth 4.0, so it will work with both iPhones and Android phones.