This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2015-04-27 at 6:05 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/15624
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Automatic Labs Sponsoring TidBITS

by Adam C. Engst

We’re pleased to welcome as our latest long-term TidBITS sponsor Automatic Labs, makers of the Automatic car adapter and connected apps. Described simply, Automatic [1] is a little device that plugs into your car’s standard diagnostic port and then connects to your iPhone (or Android phone), transmitting driving data to your phone after your trip and letting you analyze it on the phone or a Web-based dashboard. Why might you want this? With more data, you can drive smarter, safer, and with fewer hassles.

[image link] [2]

In terms of driving smarter, Automatic can show you the cost and miles-per-gallon efficiency of every trip to help you find the most efficient route when commuting. It also decodes the check engine light and can even clear it for minor issues, so you don’t have to waste time taking the car in for repair unless it’s necessary. And it can gently warn you about speeding to reduce the chances of getting ticketed.

Safety gets a boost with Automatic too. If you’re in an accident, Automatic’s Crash Alert [3] agent can dispatch assistance to you 24/7 anywhere in the United States, no subscription fee necessary. If you have a teenage driver (like we do!), the License+ [4] option offers a 100-hour program that provides positive reinforcement for driving well. It provides some location tracking, but doesn’t invade the teen’s privacy — it’s more designed to help teach teens safe driving while giving parents insight into how well their teens are doing.

Automatic throws in a few small features that eliminate hassles and just make driving a little easier. It remembers where your car is parked, and can send that location to family members with whom you’re sharing the car — ideal for large mall or airport parking lots. It also tracks your mileage for expense reports, so you don’t have to write everything down, and can warn you that you’re running out of gas before the low fuel light comes on.

Some might be worried about the data Automatic collects, but the company’s engineers actually built their own hardware [5] rather than use an off-the-shelf adapter in part so they could encrypt transmissions to prevent malicious attacks or data sniffing. Plus, Automatic lays out everything else it does to protect customer data in its privacy policy [6]; the company clearly understands that trust is essential for its success.

Automatic works on most gas (not electric or diesel) cars sold since 1996, when the OBD-II diagnostic port became standard, and it requires an iPhone 5 or newer running iOS 7 or later. Practically speaking, Automatic is most attractive for those with older cars, but since the average age of cars in the United States is 11.4 years, there are plenty of perfectly functional cars without the bells and whistles of the latest models. Automatic provides those bells and whistles — and more — for $99.95. Or, actually, $79.96 after the 20 percent discount [7] Automatic is offering to TidBITS readers in the United States. Those elsewhere in the world can sign up to be alerted when Automatic starts supporting other countries.

Thanks to Automatic for their support of TidBITS and the Apple community!

[1]: https://www.automatic.com/
[2]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-04/Automatic-Dashboard.png
[3]: https://www.automatic.com/crash-alert/
[4]: https://www.automatic.com/license-plus/
[5]: http://blog.automatic.com/why-we-built-the-link/
[6]: https://www.automatic.com/legal/#privacy
[7]: https://www.automatic.com/tb