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Automatic Link uses iPhone to make regular cars smarter

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Automatic Labs has announced a new device that uses Apple's iPhone to turn normal cars into smart devices that can save drivers time and money, and it's now available for pre-order.



The Automatic Link plugs into a car's on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, typically located under the left side of the dashboard near where the driver sits. The OBD port has been built into every car sold in the United States since 1996, and it allows for the extraction of information on a vehicle's speed, fuel level, and error reports. The Link monitors these and other indicators, providing information on how drivers can get around more safely and control their energy usage.

Speaking with AllThingsD, Automatic co-founder and CEO Thejo Kote touted the device's potential to engender smarter driving.

"Making small changes in driving behavior can lead to big savings in gas," Kote said. "We're trying to improve the car ownership experience without upgrading the car."

The Automatic Link activates every time a driver turns a car on or off, and it generates a trip report showing where a car went, what its fuel efficiency was on the trip, and what that equates to in gas costs. It also displays weekly trends and timelines that can be shared with other owners of the same model of vehicle.

As a driver continues to use the device, it generates a weekly driving score report, logging things such as rough braking, speeding, and rapid acceleration. Users can then alter their driving behaviors in order to improve fuel efficiency going forward.

Automatic Link also uses GPS information to gauge the price of filling a car's tank by cross-referencing nearby filling stations, gas prices, and the current gas tank level.

The system also monitors car health through the OBD port, using push notifications to explain, for instance, why a user's 'check engine' light may be illuminated. It also has a built-in Crash Alert system that uses an iPhone's data connection to immediately report crashes to 911 with the user's name, location, and vehicle description.

The Automatic Link is available for pre-order from Automatic's site. The device retails for $70, with no subscription fees. It is currently compatible with only the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and begins shipping in May. Automatic says an Android-compatible version ? compatible with selected models ? will be shipping this fall.
post #2 of 17

It's in general the same optional functionality that Garmin rolled out for their Nuvis's a couple years ago. I've used it for some time now and it works well. Saved me a few dollars at my mechanic too.

https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=38354&locale=en_GB

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDthYihY_ro

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post #3 of 17
Cool. Stuff like this has been around for a while. Probably in the Apple app store as well. Is this another sponsored ad?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.prowl.torque&hl=en

http://www.amazon.com/BAFX-Products-Bluetooth-diagnostics-compatible/dp/B005NLQAHS

= Half the cost of the one listed here and available for years.
post #4 of 17

Pretty cool and useful.  I can see parents of driving teens using this, I certainly would/will (I don't have to worry about that for at least another 5 years, just enough time to re-mortgage the house in order to afford the car insurance).

 

Now, where's the guy who usually chimes in about the government tracking our every move.  He'll love this one.

post #5 of 17

It's a cool idea, but they need to get a decent marketing and legal advisor. Naming it a plain dictionary word makes the product incredibly expensive and difficult to market - and impossible to copyright. If they do get any traction, Chinese copies will be on the shelves with exactly the same name and there's not much they could do. It's like no one read business books anymore.

post #6 of 17
Been using a Scan Gauge II on my Highlander Hybrid for years. This will replace it nicely.
post #7 of 17
Just pre-ordered one for my cars :-) Should be a good addition to my gadget collection...
post #8 of 17
If this actually works and is compatible with most cars made in the past few years, it's fucking brilliant. I would spend the $70 in a heartbeat for the amount of versatility is has. How do you know if your car has a data port?
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

If this actually works and is compatible with most cars made in the past few years, it's fucking brilliant. I would spend the $70 in a heartbeat for the amount of versatility is has. How do you know if your car has a data port?

 

If your car was built after 1996 it has one. You can buy a bluetooth OBD adapter today from amazon FYI.

post #10 of 17

I think these OBDII scanners are mostly a waste of time. Read your diagnostic codes? Useless unless you know what the code means. This is a case of a little bit of information can be dangerous. You can't diagnose cars with a simple code reader or datastream. All they can do is give you a place to start - the real work comes after the scanner points you in the right direction (and you won't even know what direction that is without a good understanding of howyour cars fuel injection system works).

 

If they want to make something really useful then give customers the ability to connect to a specific make of vehicle so you can get data for your entire vehicle, not just the engine/tranny (which is all an OBDII scanner can give you). Or let you change settings for things like general or comfort modules so you can make changes without having to visit a dealer.

 

Some of the features are OK (like telling if your teen drives over a certain speed or has been running your engine to redline). But the rest is pointless, IMO.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

I think these OBDII scanners are mostly a waste of time. Read your diagnostic codes? Useless unless you know what the code means. This is a case of a little bit of information can be dangerous. You can't diagnose cars with a simple code reader or datastream. All they can do is give you a place to start - the real work comes after the scanner points you in the right direction (and you won't even know what direction that is without a good understanding of howyour cars fuel injection system works).

 

If they want to make something really useful then give customers the ability to connect to a specific make of vehicle so you can get data for your entire vehicle, not just the engine/tranny (which is all an OBDII scanner can give you). Or let you change settings for things like general or comfort modules so you can make changes without having to visit a dealer.

 

Some of the features are OK (like telling if your teen drives over a certain speed or has been running your engine to redline). But the rest is pointless, IMO.

 

The android version that I use looks up the code and tells you. So if you have an older car where the check engine light on can meaning anything from an oil change to an engine fire, it's very helpful. Also great if you're a gearhead and want to see turbo stats, HP output etc. Long list of uses for this. The android solution is cheap. Costs under $30 so it's paid for itself very quickly. $70 is not that bad either.

post #12 of 17
Looks like the narrator in this video has been studying Jony Ive in old Apple product launch videos.

But seriously, since I got my first hybrid car 10 years ago I've been saying that a big part of the fuel savings comes not from the fancy engine but from the real-time MPG info displayed on the dash -- which could be integrated into any car. It looks like this is an easy way to do that. I hope it works and lots of people use it!
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by NexusPhan View Post

 

The android version that I use looks up the code and tells you. So if you have an older car where the check engine light on can meaning anything from an oil change to an engine fire, it's very helpful. Also great if you're a gearhead and want to see turbo stats, HP output etc. Long list of uses for this. The android solution is cheap. Costs under $30 so it's paid for itself very quickly. $70 is not that bad either.

 

The data rate for OBD2 is very slow. So if you want to monitor several items the update rate is going to be terrible. So it's OK to see if your teens are speeding, but it's not fast enough to be of any use for data acquisition.

 

Here's a real-life example. You have a code that says: Oxygen Sensor Heater Circuit. What do you do? Most people go ahead and replace the oxygen sensor which would be correct a lot of the time. So the odds are on your side if you replace the sensor. But what if you replace the sensor and the code comes back? What do you do? Here are some possible causes:

 

- Relay for sensor heater is faulty.

- Relay trigger circuit is faulty.

- Bad fuse.

- Engine Computer (ECU) has an internal fault in the circuit which controls/monitors the heater.

- Bad wiring anywhere in the chain from the power supply to the fuse to the relay through a couple connectors and back to the ECU.

- Bad connector somewhere in the chain.

 

How do you go about determining where the fault lies? Or better yet, should you have done a few simple tests before plunking down cash to replace the sensor?

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

If this actually works and is compatible with most cars made in the past few years, it's fucking brilliant. I would spend the $70 in a heartbeat for the amount of versatility is has. How do you know if your car has a data port?

I think all cars made in the last 15-20 years have them.
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post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


I think all cars made in the last 15-20 years have them.

 

Cars from 1996 and up have an OBD2 port. However, some cars didn't fully support them until 1998 (meaning not all things work). This is why most emissions testing facilities only scan cars from 1998 and up. Some manufacturers in the US started putting them in as early as 1994 on certain models.

post #16 of 17
I have the Vag-Com connection which works for all VW vehicles, including Audi and others. This is connected to USB on a laptop running windoze or emulation. It provides all of the OBD info as well as the capability to make changes to settings that are not made by the manufacturer. Windows down from the remote can be set as well as getting rid of annoying chimes. A version running on iOS would be more convenient than plugging in a laptop. Bluetooth connection would be even better. While this Automatic Link software can record info from OBD, it can't change anything, which is probably good.
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post #17 of 17
Save $100's in gas per year? Sorry, but if you are that bad of a driver that you don't know what the habits are that are costing you $100's of extra gas per year, take the bus...
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