Making our car smart with Automatic
Update: May 7, 2020: Automatic has announced that they will be shutting down their app and service on May 28, 2020. Read their FAQ.
We have seen the Automatic Classic Car Adapter and considered buying it for a few years. We probably picked it up and looked at it in the Apple Store or at Best Buy at least a dozen times. Now that most of our house is smart, it seems natural to start connecting our cars as well, so a couple of months ago we took the plunge.
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The Automatic adapter is a small little device that connects to your car’s on-board diagnostics port (OBD-II). They claim it works with most cars built after 1996, and you can check your car’s compatibility from their website.
Once you have it plugged in you can get all sorts of information about your car through the Automatic app: you can track how many miles you have driven, find out what the check engine light really means, get feedback on your driving style, or remember where you parked, etc. Not all features are supported for every car – for instance, neither of our cars support the fuel level sensor. The adapter is simple to install and the app is really well designed and informative. It also works with the Apple Watch (as well as the Pebble), which is especially handy when you want to see where you have parked.
Automatic also has a lot of great application integrations. You can connect it to IFTTT to create triggers, to expense reporting tools like Concur to track your mileage, and to the Amazon Echo to get data about your car from Alexa. We like to ask our Echo – Alexa, ask Automatic where the car is – and she reads off our home location. You can also ask her how much you drove, and if your car supports it, how much gas you have left (assuming your fuel sensor is supported).
While you are driving, Automatic also gives you real time feedback. If you accelerate or brake too hard for instance – both of which can affect your fuel efficiency, you will hear an audible beep from the device. It is probably too soon to tell if this is having any impact on our driving or saving us any money, but it will interesting to analyze this data.
Another great feature that we hope we never have to use is Crash Assist. If the Automatic detects that you have been in an accident, someone will call you and will inform your loved ones that you designate that something has happened.
If you are considering getting an Automatic Car Adapter, you may want to check first to see if your car insurance provider has any programs. Our insurance offers a free device for drivers in certain states, as well as a pilot program for teens to monitor their driving. The program is not available for us, which is fine since we are not necessarily ready to share all that data with others yet.
At $99, the Automatic Car Adapter is a great little device packed with a lot of useful features that have left us wondering why it took us so long to buy it. It will be interesting to see how it grows as a platform and integrates with even more smart home device.