Will the App Automatic Change the Way You Drive?

RelayRides blogger Eric Rosenberg reviews the Automatic app and explains why it may be worth purchasing.

What Is Automatic?

Automatic is an app and hardware tool that plugs into your car to give your more information about your car’s health and your driving style. Nearly every car built since 1996 has an ODB port, or on-board diagnostics port, that connects to your car’s computer.

Each time you take your car into the shop, the mechanic plugs a reader into your car’s ODB that gives a flow of information on your car’s condition. The information provided by an ODB includes errors that turn on your check engine light, fuel efficiency, performance information, and technical information about your engine and vehicle’s condition.

How It Helps You Save Money

Automatic is a two part system requiring both an ODB adapter called the Automatic Link and an app available for iPhone and Android phones.

The Automatic app only works with the Link, and it provides a stream of information about your driving and car to your phone while you drive. It uses your phone’s GPS to track your driving routes, gas mileage, and driving style.

While you are driving, the Link’s default setting is to beep if you brake too hard, accelerate too quickly, or drive over 70 miles per hour. Why? These easily controllable driving faux paus cost you serious fuel efficiency. Smoother braking, accelerating, and keeping your speed lower helps maximize your fuel efficiency regardless of the type of vehicle you own.

When you are not driving, you can open up the app to see a driving score, which rates your driving based on those three factors, shows your driving routes and the estimated fuel cost for driving that route, and how many times you broke the three driving rules in the app. If you drive well, your score goes up and you are saving money.

Over the last week, I can see that I’ve driven 88.8 miles while in my car for 5:02 hours. My average fuel efficiency is 29 MPG, which is above my car’s rated 28 MPG, and my estimated fuel cost over the last week is $12.55

Know More About Your Car

In addition to the day-to-day driving tracking, the Link reads error codes from your ODB to tell you more about your vehicle’s health. If your check engine light or service light comes on, you don’t ever really know why unless you drive to a shop and have a mechanic hook up to your car.

Now, with the Link, you can find out what is wrong right from your phone. For unimportant errors, you can even reset the light right from your phone. Now you know right away if you have a problem that requires a tow or if you can drive for a few more days before a repair, if you need one at all.

What Else Can It Do?

I first learned about Automatic when popular Automation tool IFTTT (which stands for If This, Then That) added an Automatic channel. I quickly made my way to the Automatic website where I learned about the Automatic Link and app, which lets you plug right into your car’s computer to learn more about your driving.

With IFTT and Automatic, you can do all sorts of cool stuff with your car and your phone (some Android functionality is still in beta and not released). For example, you can have your phone automatically turn to silent mode when your Automatic Link picks up a GPS location at your office and it can turn your phone to full volume when you get home.

Because the GPS is tracking your driving routes, the app also tells you where you last parked your car. I know I will never lose my car in a big parking lot again!

The Link also has an emergency contact feature in the event your ODB signals you were in a car accident. Through Automatic emergency services or emergency contacts that you set can be notified that you were in an accident and signal for help.

Is It Worth Buying?

The Automatic Link is available from either Automatic or other stores like Amazon for $99.95. For nearly $100, you would have to make some serious driving changes to save enough fuel to quickly cover the cost. The biggest cost savings for someone who is already a good driver (based on the Automatic standards) is from skipping a visit to the mechanic if your engine light comes on and you don’t have a serious problem that requires attention.

I was a little underwhelmed by the app after the initial excitement wore off, but that doesn’t mean the information is not useful.

I see the full potential of Automatic as yet to be discovered. Once the developers update the app to utilize more information that your car is already providing, such as engine performance and some of the other information available from your car’s 60 channels of sensor data, there will be a much more compelling case to buy.

If you like the idea of an ODB sensor for your phone, cheaper options exist, but they are not quite as well polished as the Automatic Link and app. Amazon offers several Bluetooth ODBII sensors that can send information to your phone for about $20, and other apps such as DashCommand (iOS version is $9, Android is free) or Torque Pro ($4.95 for Android) give you much of the same, if not more, information on your car.

If you are looking for information on your engine and car performance, a cheaper ODBII sensor and app are probably the best way to go. If you find the features of the Automatic app including fuel efficiency information and error reporting enticing, you won’t be disappointed.

Make Even More With RelayRides

While the Automatic Link can help you save on gas, the best way to cover the costs of your car is to have it start paying for itself. RelayRides members earn an average of $250 per month renting out their car, which can cover gas, insurance, and repairs.

Want to turn your gas guzzler into a fatter wallet? List your car with RelayRides today