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Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant (automatic.com)
690 points by gresrun on Mar 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 295 comments

This is a great start to what I hope will be an awesome product. One of the other commenters mentioned fleet/enterprise customers -- let me raise my hand (as one of those customers) and say how SORELY needed this sort of approach to tech is in the fleet space.

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and a (really crappy and expensive) cellular modem that pings a really expensive service via GPRS or some similar out-of-date tech and costs $30/month/device for service + $500 / device.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!

If you're actually interested, Fleetio[1] already works with VHM hardware from Prova Systems for $5 per vehicle per month.

[1]: http://www.fleetio.com/

Teslas Model S does 1, 2 and 3 out of the box and offers you a REST api to automate it. This stuff should just be standard issue in this day and age.

(I thought the OBD port is decidedly "read-only"? Given how easy access is mandated by law.)

This stuff should just be standard issue in this day and age.

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.

No, in some (most?) cars you can buy tuners to adjust settings and overwrite existing data for tweaking different things like timing, air/fuel ratio, default RPM's, red line, etc.

Writing stuff over OBD is actually mandated by law, including writing new keys - making it possible to "hot-wire" a modern car even though it has immobilizer. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4217171

It might be standard issue, but it sure as hell isn't standardised. For instance: some (all? It's been a while) BMWs have the engine's CAN bus available on a couple of pins in the OBD-II socket. If you knew what you were doing, you could have an awful lot of fun with that, but the chances of it being compatible with any other manufacturer out of the box? Slim.

And it certainly isn't read-only :-)

I spoke with a company recently that does mobile apps for truckers. Unfortunately the large trucks don't use the same protocols. But I can definitely see something similar being used for Taxis, Vans, city busses, shuttle busses, etc. Plenty of benefits.

Care to share the name of the company?

Sorry, I shouldn't. But their focus is on the regulatory side, rather than the fun eco analytics that I'd hoped they would be interested in.

https://www.getlocalmotion.com/ has a solution with a connected box, which integrates with existing corporate RFID badges to open the car.

There might be a few challenges in evolving this product to an iPhone|Smartphone-free future. 3G modems are notorious for their energy inefficiency, and if one were to include them in this device, the drain on the car's battery will be significantly higher.

Unlikely. Cellular modems might be notorious when it comes to mobile devices, but the power use is tiny compared to car electrics (headlights, spark plugs, various fans).

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.

> ... but the power use is tiny compared to car electrics (headlights, spark plugs, various fans).

Spark plugs?

I may have gotten a little ahead of myself with the spark plugs. They're necessarily very high voltage (north of 10k volts), so they come to mind easily, but I'm sure the current and spark duration are quite low.

Still, just the lights will easily outweigh a consumer-grade cellular modem.

You should talk to these guys, they just posted today actually: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5362912

What's the problem with tethering?

I've seen these before. There are several companies working on similar products (and things like HUDs you can get off of eBay which show you OBD-II information).

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.

We're paranoid about not running your car's battery down. When the ignition is off, we consume less than 1 mA. By itself, the Automatic Link would take 3-4 years to drain even a cheap battery.

I think it's better to break this down, because this myth of 'running out of battery' is really exaggerated

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.

Car batteries don't die after sitting idle for three weeks, not in a normal car with a working battery.

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.

Weather is a factor, especially for those living in harsh winter climates. The first "C" in a battery's CCA rating is "Cold." i.e., how much current the battery can provide for 30 seconds of cranking continuously at 0F when brand new. That current rating drops significantly below zero Fahrenheit - http://www.pacificpowerbatteries.com/aboutbatts/car%20batter...

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.

Grew up in Wisconsin. Definitely an issue. I had an old Ford Aerostar that would only give you one chance to start if it was below -10F and if it started, you didn't dare let it stop for a while. :)

Well, when was the last time you left your car without powering it for a while?

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)

A few years ago, when I was traveling for about a month. Had no trouble starting the car afterwards.

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.

The current budget for an unpowered car is on the order of 20mA, and they're specced to leave the factory such that they can be left in that state and started after a month.

If you switch the alarm on, that budget increases to something like 120mA, but you'll kill the car inside a fortnight.

I wouldn't call it a myth people have reported issues with similar port adapters, particularly bluetooth ones. If the issue doesn't apply here then great but in general people should pay attention.

My cheap chinese bluetooth obd2 device caused my battery to drain when I was ill for a week and didn't use my car over the christmas holidays. On the plus side now I know how to jump start it.

Thanks, this is good to know since I have one too. I'll have to start unplugging mine (also cheap and probably Chinese, though I got it on Amazon). But I've left it in for several months without issue, I guess maybe I just drive regularly enough that it's not an issue.

I'm not saying a cheap chinese adaptor won't drain your battery, but from what's shown I hope they thought of an energy saving system

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.

> My guess is that an unpowered car uses more than that by itself

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.

I'm glad you replied to this criticism. I'm very excited about your product, and I'm hoping that you are planning on a third party API so folks can build apps for your customers..... maybe that was written somewhere and I missed it??

We'd love to build an API. It's on a long list of things we want to build. The Automatic Link supports OTA updates (through the phone). So, our users can expect improvements. In fact, we think of ourselves as a software company. We built a hardware device because that was the only way we could achieve the user experience we wanted to deliver.

That's a good number for IOD (ignition off draw). Radios, excluding screen aim to be sub-mA range.

Most other electronic components are sub-100uA

That's very good to hear, the reason why I didn't make talking to the obd port a regular hobby is because my wifi connector would eat the battery up in a few days.

Could you detect a drop in voltgage when the engine turns off and automatically turn off your device?

The ScangaugeII (similar use case) works is that it shuts off if engine RPM = 0 for >30sec.

At what voltage?

Can't the dongle just kill its own connection to the OBDII port? i.e. appear inert to the car's hardware as if nothing is plugged in?

It could, but keep in mind many OBD-II ports are out of reach. The one shown in the marketing is real, but many are located on the passenger side or a lot deeper on the driver's side.

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 think what he meant was, can't the device shut itself off in software to appear as though it is unplugged. Not having the user unplug it himself.

Oh I see what you mean.

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.

They could put it in a low power sleep mode, and wake up once ever x seconds to check if the engine is on.

You could run something like this for months/years on a car battery.

Then you have a tradeoff: if you don't wake up frequently enough, you could conceivably drive for a good distance before noticing.

Something like every 5 to 10 seconds would work fine. The point is this is a solved problem for embedded hardware.

The company rep said in a previous reply that it consumes < 1 mA when the ignition is off, that's good enough.

"Kind of a chick/egg problem."

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.

If the device has its own battery power, it could probably use a transistor to just disconnect from the battery voltage completely and go into a low power mode where it just checks for ODB2 information periodically, or even just turns itself on when your phone is in range.

"never while it is being driven."

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.

For cars sold in the EU, the position of the ODB-II port is mandated.

Do you have a source for that? Because from experience (being an EU driver) most cars I've dealt with have the port in a different location.

Some as wonderful as being literally right in the centre console, to being as horrible as under a mat in the passenger side.

I don't have a source, but I was also advised a couple of years ago that it is mandated to be under the dashboard on the driver side.

According to http://www.obdii.com/connector.html :

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.

The CAN[1] bus used in OBD is a broadcast protocol. So the dongle can just stop sending messages to appear inert to engine control unit.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controller_Area_Network

I wonder how Progressive solved that problem with their OBD II + Qualcomm MSM device.

Drop an amp meter between the ground cable and your battery's negative terminal (after disconnecting that connection, of course), and you'll probably see and existing, full time current draw (while the vehicle is off and parked) in any modern vehicle well above what an odb dongle will use.

From this 2005? Toyota manual, 20mA average or less, up to 50mA is considered acceptable: http://home.4x4wire.com/deddleman/photos/elec_parasitic_load...

Oh really, I didn't realize this was the case. I have a cheap ODB2 reader and I use Torque to estimate my gas mileage, and I just leave it plugged in but in the settings it has an option to remind you to unplug it but I didn't know why. Now I know. I have to say though that I've left it plugged in for a good few months or so and haven't had any problems.

I would label this as "Mint.com for your Car". And along with that, I'm sure your data will be collected, analyzed, and sold. I imagine they'll eventually partner with insurance companies too and these stats will influence your rates. Companies like Progressive are already doing this.

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.

(Edit) From their Privacy Policy:

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.

Well from what I have seen, you buy that device and then you install an app on your phone. Surely you could use a firewall on your phone to block outside contact as the connection between the device and your phone is over a closed bluetooth network.

I'm just assuming here that the phone app doesn't self destruct when there is no internet connection.

If the service turns out to actually be usefil, I hope they will consider charging money for it in lieu of spiriting away my personal information as you suggest.

It's not free, it costs $70.

You could argue that the device costs $70, but the service is "free". What seems to be the plea is to have the device cost something and have the service cost an amount of money, rather than an amount of information.

And Facebook's not free because you (presumably) paid for your computer.

Wow I had an idea similar to this back in college, couldn't get any co-founders interested in doing a proper startup sadly!

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: http://dx.com/p/obdii-bluetooth-car-diagnostic-cable-black-b...

Combine it with an app like Torque...: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.prowl.torq...

...or Rev and you've got some of the functionality already: http://www.devtoaster.com/products/rev/

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.

Last I looked, none of these were iPhone compatible, as they were Bluetooth Serial profile (SPP), which isn't supported for app use.

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.

Rev, linked above, has been around for a few years and is iPhone compatible. See the hardware page on their site for bluetooth info.

Rev only advertises/supports wifi dongles, for the reasons listed above

The Pebble smart watch uses Bluetooth Serial Profile.

Only if you could call the ipod a clone of all previous mp3 players. Technology != Customer Experience.

Except torque is only for car enthusiasts, and it looks like the general population would have use for this.

I drive a 15 year old car and find Torque very valuable, it's not just for enthusiasts.

And you can make the screens as simple as this displays.

I guess this one is just easier out of the box.

Wow, I wouldn't necessarily call it a "clone". That skeuomorphism would make Scott Forstall cry. And what's with using Copperplate for logo? It makes the app look like something a child designed in Microsoft Word.

This thing doesn't really offer me more than my Honda Insight already does built-in.

I'm going to get a ScanGuageII soon: http://www.scangauge.com/products/scangaugeii/

Thanks for those links. I'm tempted to buy one to experiment. Torque says it allows you to upload data to your own website too, which means you could use it with Tasker to do probably much more than the Automatic can do.


I'm a user of Torque - I think I'm with you on this one, not many people of aware of apps and devices that can communicate with their cars, which is why the niche for a device like Automatic exists, I guess.

"Why the fax machine is nothing but a waffle iron with a phone attached."

To be fair, I bought a $10 EML327 and it didn't work in my car.

Not all elm327 clones are the same. Some don't support the newer protocols, you should check their forums for leads on the better sellers on ebay/amazon.

Does this also connect to the CAN Bus, if so will you offer a simple high level API to it. I would buy one now if it did.

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.

Attempting to control process parameters in your car with undocumented features by trial and error? Highly advice against it. Who knows what can happen, you might even accidentally send accelerator pedal request. On the systems I've worked on you can absolutely not control the cruise control by externally firing CAN messages onto the wire. Sure, the engine would probably respond to them but it would also respond to the real messages being sent from the ecu in charge milliseconds later, causing very jerky response. You could also cause the cruise to activate at standstill or other non allowed conditions since those conditions aren't necessarily located in the engine ecu.

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.

At my employer (a car sharing company) we do have this API (for internal use only) and it is extremely fun to use.

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

Scary thinking about the fact that if there is a billing dispute or anything to that nature, for connected cars in the near future, someone could just turn a car off at whim for a driver. I would hope there is a high regulatory wall formed in the years to come if you want to disable a person's car remotely.

There's something like this already for used car dealerships who lease to high risk customers. A device is installed with a keypad in the compartment. The dealer programs it with a payment schedule and a time. Each time you make your payment, you get a new code and punch it in. If you fail to make a payment on time, car won't start. Some of them even have GPS to assist with reposession.. scary little devices.


> unlock/lock from his phone

Liability hell.

Worse liability than "Automatic Calls for Help in a Crash"?

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.

Same as Lockitron / Tesla. I supposed you would have to tell your insurance company, and they would have to OK it.

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.

It depends on the driver and the area you're from. In front of my home, I rarely lock my car.

No, it depends on who you can blame (and sue) if someone steals your car.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you could be liable for stuff that happens if someone steals your unlocked car.

If this is a common thing, how does the party holding you liable typically show that the car was unlocked?

Usually a confession by the perp, and/or by the owner. It's not unusual at all for people not to know the details of the law like this and blurt out factoids, and for there to be harsh but difficult to enforce laws in the US.

I'd expect a "confession" by one who stole a car to be worth very little in a civil action by a third party against the owner of that car.

If the "confession" is from a known car thief, sure. If from a neighborhood kid with an otherwise clean record, then not so much.

Some cars expose a CAN bus through the diagnostic port, but reject commands like these coming from that port, probably for security and safety reasons. You have to get to the "internal" bus to be able to do this kind of hack.

Lesson for startups here: There are tons of devices/apps that do exactly what this does already. What's the difference? Automatic has great design, snappy domain name, and most importantly mass market positioning. These had traditionally been targeted towards gear heads, but Automatic smartly positioned it to be something mass market (gas mileage, etc...)

Could you give an example or two of their best competitor?

Automatic seems to be mostly aimed at consumers who wish to have statistics more than to perform optimizations or do diagnosis, but here are a couple that are fairly common in the aftermarket:

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 first link is a $50 piece of software that still requires a dongle. The suggested dongle is $99.

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.

It depends what you're after. Most sports cars are programmable to tweak different things about the engine and transmission. Some companies that sell handheld devices that read, record, and write data are: SCT, AccessPORT, and Diablo.

This is egregiously well done, all of it. I have zero interest in my car or how it works, and yet I'll have one.

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.

I'm right there with you.

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.

Very good concept overall, I like the idea A LOT. One thing that surprised me: >> Speeding doesn't save as much time as you might think, but driving 10 MPH over the speed limit reduces fuel efficiency by 12-15%.

How's my fuel efficiency related to the speed limit set by local authorities?

Hey isalmon, fuel efficiency is not related to the speed limit. We just use that as a frame of reference. The actual numbers are that fuel efficiency drops by 12-15% for every 10 mph above 50 mph. Here's an article which talks about that - http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/01/thomas-20130117.html

That data includes cars going back to 1984. From what I have heard (and have no citation for this), newer cars remain efficient at higher speeds than 50 mph. Do you know if that's true?

Well, I guess you should clarify it then on the website? Does not really help your credibility ;)

The biggest change is air resistance.

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.)

I wonder if some wing tech were possible to be used on vehicle body as an aftermarket option to increase laminar flow (or delay separation, I'm not sure, not an AE) to reduce air resistance.

I've seen hypermilers put aeroshells (don't know the proper name) on the backs of their cars to reduce air friction. It's pretty simple to do, but it looks very trashy.

They mean common US freeway speeds of course, shortened for copy punch/length.

The highest gear's most efficient peak of most "consumer" cars maximizes efficiency around 65mph. The NHTSA considered efficiency along with safety when making their recommendation so many years ago.

65mph is slightly too high for most models.


I think it's probably saying that every 10MPH increase has a corresponding fuel efficiency hit

Obviously it varies by car but the the theory is that most engines are less fuel efficient at higher speeds. So driving the speed limit is more fuel efficient than driving over the speed limit.

I like the design of the app and the idea of hacking cars ODB data. However I see plenty of things that make me raise (an) eyebrow(s).

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.

The privacy policy seems to boil down to "We're not planning on selling your information to anyone, but if it leaks or someone hands us a subpoena, tough noogies."

That makes me itchy, and I'm not even planning on doing anything illegal.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find any company that would willfully disobey a subpoena.

I think the idea is that the company could take steps so that they never had access (either physically or cryptographically) to the data in the first place, making a subpoena useless.

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.

Your idea presents two problems: 1. Automatic cannot do any expansion of capabilities using customer data without first changing their policy so that they can access that data.

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.

OK. I wasn't making a recommendation for Automatic, I was just trying to explain to pc86 how dsr_'s preferred strategy (that Automatic keep no data) was very plausible and, in fact, is used by many companies.

What information will they have that won't already be a subpoena away? It's tethered to your phone's data plan which means your phone company already has your location info

But most cell phone companies ditch location data after a point: http://www.acluofnorthcarolina.org/?q=chart-how-long-your-ce...

Meaning that a subpoena from them (barring AT&T) can’t necessarily get everywhere you’ve ever been...

Look up ODB-II. Lots of cars have this port. The app Torque for Android has a lot of users. Cheap bluetooth adapters can be had from China :)

The Automatic Link includes a built-in accelerometer that can detect many types of crashes. Automatic uses your phone's data connection to immediately report the crash to 911 with your name, location, and vehicle description.

Now this fascinates me. I wonder what parameters are required to trigger the automatic emergency notification.

That raised my eyebrows too. I can't help but see a lot of false positives from this, maybe even just from accidentally whacking the device.

The device is going to be looking for the "airbag deployment" code on the OBDII/CANBUS port, as well as accelerometer data.

Does the onboard computer report that the airbags have deployed?

Sudden deceleration + airbag deploy = 911?

Honestly, any airbag deploy should be a call to 911. I think it's how OnStar works.

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.

Does the onboard computer report that the airbags have deployed?

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).

And how is it reported to 911? Does Automatic have someone manually call it in? I didn't think 911 had an api that you could report stuff through.

Ford Sync and OnStar somehow already do this. I'm just guessing, but it probably just makes a phone call like "Air bags deployed at xxx lat yyy long location. This has been an automated call."

Wait, so this 69$ little contraption can read the code behind a check engine light? That's $100 in savings that would otherwise go to the Car Mechanic Mafia.


In addition to other people's recommendations, your car may have a way of spitting out the code to you. Go look on the internet for 'read OBD codes <car model>'.

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.

This has always been the determining factor for me about mechanics. Charge $80 to do a scope test? I'll go elsewhere. In my experience, getting your repeat business is more important to a good mechanic than charging a stupid $80 fee.

Try befriending your local mechanic. That'll be the real savings.

You can take your car to nearly any auto parts store -- autozone, oreilly, napa, etc -- and they will read the code for you for free too.

California law is really finicky about this - the usual rent-seeking behavior means that only "auto shops" can do code-reads, and they charge. If you go to Pep Boys, they will wink-wink, nod-nod and give you a code (that they officially charge for, which is waived if you get the service through them).

It can read the code but that doesn't give you much to work with. You won't be able to clear the code and you will have to pay for the replacement parts and undertake the repairs yourself.

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.

I have an ODB-II reader (ScanGauge II) and I am able to clear all sorts of check engine lights that appear. I got it because my second car is an old beat up work truck that commonly has malfunctions that trip the light. If this can or cannot, I don't know, but you can clear codes from an OBD-II reader.

That would almost exactly pay for the cost of the device after taking it in to read the code once.

According to the video you can clear the code, the example if if the code reports "Loose gas cap".

Let me rephrase then. Let's assume the check engine light is on due to a fault in the fuel pump. You can clear the code but you aren't clearing the problem. As soon as the problem occurs again, the light returns. In most cases the faults that trigger 'check engine' lights are in a constant state of fault until the part is repaired or replaced meaning the light will return essentially as soon as you press the accelerator.

One of the most common causes for the "check engine" light to come on is a loose gas cap. That's something I'm happy to be able to address and clear all on my own.

Granted, I tighten my gas caps like a gorilla these days.

Clearing the code is a very standard feature of any OBD reader.

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.

That part of the video left me confused, because it's often not that easy. I wonder if this function depends on the model.. Also, loose gas cap often goes away after a certain period of time anyway.

So can this $20 scanner: http://www.amazon.com/OBDII-Engine-Scanner-Trouble-Reader/dp...

Basic OBDII stuff is very cheap these days

Many shops will give you the code free of charge. It's up to you to take the codes and diagnose it. It's not always easy.

Sure, after you drive to the shop and wait for a while. Knowing without having to go anywhere is a big convenience.

Seems very similar to these guys as well: http://moj.io

I am looking forward to the competition (and innovation) in this space.

It's shocking to me how much better the automatic web design is. They tell a similar story but I leave automatic's site with a much clearer understanding of the features, price and value proposition.

and yet they are very different products, moj.io uses a mobile data network, automatic is just a bluetooth dongle.

Looks similar to this: http://moj.io/ except your's doesn't require a monthly fee (which was a big turn off for moj.io for me). I almost preordered one, but I saw android wasn't supported yet - I'll probably come back and check in the future.

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.

Love it. Want it. Except...

Now I'm carrying around a device that can reliably be used to issue me speeding tickets. What is my protection from that?

can't your phone already do that?

Not very reliably. AFAIK, the geographic resolution on phones GPS would not hold up to scrutiny if you were driving within 10-20% of the speed limit.

You could try not speeding?

I'm not talking about real speeding, I'm talking about driving 70-75 in a 65 because that's what traffic is doing. A week later I get a ticket in the mail because some zealous law enforcement agency subpoenaed a bunch of records from automatic.com. Maybe I'm being paranoid but it doesn't seem to fall far outside the realm of possibility these days.

On the pre-order page, it says only the iPhone 5 and 4S are supported. Why isn't 4 supported?

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.

It's probably using Bluetooth Low Energy, which is not available on the iPhone 4. The iPad mini should work, but its obviously up to automatic whether they build an iPad app.

Ok I know this is going to sound harsh given the praise of this thread, but I am just not getting it. The design is brilliant, the idea seems great, but of the applications listed there isn't anything there that makes me want to reach in my pocket and spend $70 on this. I'm not interested in how efficiently I am driving. This is not going to help me find my car in a parking lot, since it is an estimate and often these things are underground.

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 commend you for being part of the solution, but I have to say- for myself, the ability to check the cause of the check engine light would be worth it. If your car is fairly new, you may experience the check engine light very rarely. But for cars over 5 years old, I think that's the best feature. As opposed to taking it into a mechanic where you are completely ignorant of what the cause was.

I think it's an interesting feature, but it's still something that is a "once in a long while" feature. And, when I do use it, it's often pointless since I will need to take it to the mechanic anyway. If this was a free feature on my car, sure, I'll use it, but I'm not going to buy a product for that feature. More importantly, people who really don't care about cars in general and just take it in when the lights go on aren't going to either. (Especially when you consider the cost of getting your own self-diagnosis wrong. How is my mom supposed to know if a loose gas cap is a big deal or not?)

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 know some cars can blink light codes (morse-like on dashboard) that you can reference online to self-diagnose the engine problem.

I did it once with a weird combination of brake and pedal pushes. Kinda cool actually. Method name escapes me now.

Normal OBDII readers are cheap ($20). You can also get the codes read for free at pretty much any parts store.

I have a $50 device that can pull the codes for any vehicle they listed with a description of the error.

Go to autozone, checkers, oreilly. They will diagnose for free.

I used Glympse before Find My Friends was added to the iPhone for ETA stuff: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/glympse-share-location-frien...

My thoughts exactly. I'd pay $7 for this app, but not $70.

google latitude is actually okay for #2, as long as people have it on so your location updates aren't too far out of date.

I want to know how much the domain cost.

2 questions:

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?

Alright. The product seems pretty good, especially the marketing and the spin. But I would have to place it in the category of "cool gadgets that you don't really need". For $20-30, this might be a cool thing to try. But I am not going to shell out $70 for a little tool that will tell me how efficient I am or where I parked my car. People have been parking cars without GPS systems for years just fine. And oh, want to help me be more efficient on the road? I think that people who are serious about saving money already know to now accelerate fast, drive over 65, etc.

Wow, this could be really cool if you collected all the data from the cars anonymously and then built a data-set that mapped common car issues to mileage for specific makes/models/year combos. That could really improve car performance by predicting when issues will arise and warning the user (my 2002 malibu had a switch fail at 92k which is a common thing once I looked online, but this lead to more issues when it failed and may have been prevented if I'd replaced the part earlier).

This tool seems like a great idea. I'm going to get one when the android version is released.

I'm concerned about the Android version, a week or so ago when I was researching the fitbit It quickly became apparent the lack of Low power BT4.0 support in android core (but available on the (S3 + Note), will this support all android or just low power 4.0?

The Automatic Link supports both Bluetooth Low Energy and Bluetooth Classic, so it will work with many Android phones that don't support BT 4.0 too.

First of all, congrats on the launch guys!

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[1] 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.

[1] http://www.nextdrop.org

The problem with these telemetric policies is that I bet they are actually aimed at peanalising risky drivers rather than rewarding low risk drivers.

Perhaps I am being too syndical and actually they are just trying to replace the, now illegal, female driver discount.

I'd be interested in having one of these in the UK.

I am really excited about this product, but had a couple of questions:

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.

Automatic is designed to work with multiple drivers. So yes, you can share a car with your wife and both of you can use Automatic.

A tethering plan is not required. The Automatic Link communicates with your iPhone over Bluetooth and uses your phone's data connection.

I can't imagine it would need a tethering plan. The device should be almost exclusively 1 way (to the phone) except for updates.

So I ordered one almost immediately but now I'm having second thoughts and thinking of canceling. I really don't want some company spying on me or storing my location data.

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)

I wonder, could a malware on my phone issue a command such as "ENGAGE BRAKE FRONT-LEFT" while I'm going 130mph on the autobahn?

As I understand it, no. ODBII is a read-only data port that surfaces information about the state of your car. I don't believe it lets you enter commands.

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.

I don't believe it lets you enter commands.

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.

OBD-II isn't completely read-only.

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.

There's an article about this here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/17/bmw_car_theft_hack/

(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.)

What a great looking product idea! I pre-ordered; don't normally do that, but they promise not to charge until they ship.

Exactly. I wouldn't either, but they said "when they ship". Pre-ordered one for my lady friend as well.

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).

Pre-ordered. Way too cool! Sort of like a pedometer for your car (in that you get quick feedback on things, etc).

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've had one of these cheap Bluetooth OBD-II adapters for quite a while now, however, the tight integration that this solution shows in the demo is enough to get me to preorder. There was just too much fiddling with the other apps. Maybe the gamification of maximizing my MPG will keep me off the pedal...

I feel like the Beta flag next to Crash Alerts gives a new twist to what you can expect from a beta version.

I'm just hoping there's a way to turn it off without losing any other functionality. I really don't want to be hit with the bill from an accidental 911 call, I'll take my chances that if there's an accident someone around (or I) will be able to call 911 without a $70 app deciding it for me.

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.

The privacy policy implies that there might be a way to turn it off ("...If you use..."):

"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."[1]

[1] https://www.automatic.com/legal#privacy

You can disable the crash alert feature if you don't want it.

Does it send the alert straight away or do you get a chance to stop it if it triggers accidentally or the accident isn't so bad that you need an ambulance?

Where do you live that you get a bill for 911 calls?

911 is free, but you foot the bill for services rendered and face a fine for false 911 calls.

Who says it's a call?

> Automatic uses your phone's data connection to immediately report the crash to 911 with your name, location, and vehicle description.

How does Automatic compare to Verizon/Delphi's coming dongle/app that does a lot of the same things? We don't know pricing for the Delphi dongle yet, but it does appear to include unlocking/locking the car for certain models:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avX0YRiXDI0 http://shop.verizonwireless.com/?id=vehicle-diagnostics

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.

Do all cars have this 'data port'? I had no idea this thing existed.

All cars produced after 1996 will have it. A lot of cars produced before 1996 will have it too.

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.

Yes, it is the OBD II port, and is typically used for on board diagnostics and connects directly to the ECU. The bluetooth "dongles" have been around for a number of years.

I was under the impression that it was mandated by the government for all US cars in the 90's. Is that not the case?

It was mandated that all cars built and sold in the US starting in 1996 have it..

> Honda cars that use VTEC often don't have OBD II ports.

i'm a car guy and i've never heard of this before. source?

My apologies, this was greatly mislead information from me. Not sure why I had that note in there, but fixed it.

yep. It's used to interface with maintenance tools usually. That's how they figure out what "check engine" actually means.

Very cool. I'll probably buy one when it comes out for Android.

It is my understanding that engine codes are not public and car manufacturers consider them copyrighted information, requiring a license. I wonder if Automatic reverse engineered the codes or licensed them from the manufacturers.

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.

Most of the in-depth codes are proprietary, but at the same time, things like mass airflow sensor info and throttle position sensors are under the standard specs for OBD-II info. So even without paying the many thousands of dollars to Ford, etc for the info, you can usually get a good idea of what's going on.

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.

I would think that fleet cars / rental cars / company cars might be more of a market than consumers for this kind of thing in some ways.

This is really intuitive! I never even knew my car had this port. If only they could support Android sooner, I'd preorder right now.

Search the Google Play store for OBD-II. You'll find a number of apps that allow you to get at the data in various forms using a <$10 Bluetooth adapter.

Do most cars have an Onboard Diagnostics Port or is this more so in newer cars only? I wish there was some information about what cars this is expected to work with.

It says on the page "It works with just about any car sold in the United States since 1996." It's been mandatory for all car manufacturers in the US since 1996.

1996 and later. http://www.epa.gov/obd/

Any car with a OBD II port should work with the device... just Google your car. As noted, it's basically anything after 96 save for Hondas and a few other models.

"Save for Hondas and a few other models."

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)

I would love to have just a nice OBD II app that allows me to diagnose and reset params in my car. All the solutions that I've found so far seem to be thrown together and have generally horrendous UI.

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.

Well done! I'd actually consider ordering one. I'm sure you've given these out to friends and family as testers; are there any examples of them saving on gas that you could tell us about? The other features seem more neat than useful, at least on a daily basis. I'd consider purchasing the device on gas benefits alone.

Does this interact with door locks and car alarms at all? Is that even possible? At least once a week I find myself walking back to my car to make sure I hit the car alarm. I would definitely pay to solve that problem. Getting an iPhone app for my home security system has already saved me a lot of grief.

OnStar offers that. Not sure if it's able to be added to your vehicle, but I can lock/unlock/start/trigger alarm/etc. my car from my iPhone.

Looks like such a thing might be possible. This thread seems to indicate someone was able to mimic door (un)lock codes via the CAN bus.


That would be a really nice feature in this for anyone who doesn't like/want onstar.

Any idea when it actually expects to ship?

What I want from my driving assistant: Notify me (perhaps with a beep) if I go N mph above speed-limit for a road. Let me specify what that N should be, and let me override the speed limits for a specific road (this will hopefully allow the service to crowd-source the speed limits data)

I know this is going to sound stupid, but I wrote a pretty detailed business plan for this exact same idea. Glad that these guys decide to run with it. An interesting link from the past:


I also had this idea (with more of a feedback-based efficiency training tool, but still). I did get quite concerned with the privacy implications of logging somebody's vehicle location, though.

The release of this product seems like a great coincidence with the Department of Energy's Apps for Vehicles competition: http://appsforvehicles.challenge.gov/

I wonder if there are future partnership opportunities?

Hmmm. What's the multi-driver and privacy story for this? I see one mention (being able but not required to share your parking location with other drivers) but I'm curious about how this handles eg trip history information when a different smartphone plugs in.

Very cool. I'm still waiting for a phone version of the Tactrix open port though. Would love to be able to do in-depth data-logging of my car and ECU flashing from my phone... the market for that is significantly smaller though I'm sure.

The "driver score" feature sounds like a solution for the worried parent whose kid occasionally borrows the car in the evenings and on weekends. I wonder if they plan on entering this market.

No mobile friendly site? I would expect a company that makes and sells a "smartphone" product would have a website that is optimized for a mobile browser, like my iPhone 5.

Looks like a great product though!

Well timed release with the Department of Energy's Apps for Vehicles competition: http://appsforvehicles.challenge.gov/.

Too bad they're US only.

Not even Canada, which shares a lot of the available car line up with the US.

I'd buy this in an instant if it was available in Canada.

Me too. I found out the lack of support for Canada as I was filling in my credit card details on their purchase page.

Is there a reason for not selling in Canada?

Off-topic: Excellent use of Bootstrap. Someone should add this to the Bootstrap Expo[1].

[1]: http://expo.getbootstrap.com/

I wonder if the plan on making one for obd1 vehicles or if they plan on sticking to just obd2? A lot of gearheads who would love this are still driving obd1 cars.

$70 is crazy. For $20 I bought from www.carcarecheck.com and get OBD2 + a year's membership + their beta.

They do real time diagnostics + crash notification = Much better deal.

Oh yeah, and they're shipping to Canada + worldwide. Again, much better deal.

Any idea what a year's membership will cost after the first year?

I wonder what Automattic Inc. thinks of that company name?

Out of curiosity, why does it matter what Android or iPhone I have. Is the unit actually different? What happens if I get a different phone in a month?

hi dlokshin, we support the iPhone 4S and 5 because those are the only models that support Bluetooth 4.0. I'm sure we can theoretically support every Android phone out there, but as a small team, we'd rather focus on a smaller set and provide the best experience possible. Our goal is to support as many Android phones as possible over time.

The Automatic Link supports both classic bluetooth and bluetooth 4.0, so it will work with both iPhones and Android phones.

Why does it matter what type of car I have as long as it's new enough?

OBD-II just standardizes the connection port, meaning that you can plug in the device, but not all cars support the same information and features. Most of them do, but I'm sure that the guys over at Automatic don't want to sell someone a product that isn't supported or tested for their vehicle.

That's right!


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