I’ve said it before – I’ll say it again. I’m no car guy.
I’m a gadget and technology guy.
If my vehicle has wheels and goes, then I’m just about good.
If you know me, you’ll know that I like to do what makes sense (to me at least) and I’ll use technology to accomplish that.
This is why I appreciate a nice little gadget from Automatic that ties my car to my smart phone.
Why would I want to connect my car to my iPhone? Well, the reasons vary – but they’re all good.
- Automatic Crash detection
- Hard Braking detection
- Hard Acceleration detection
- Vehicle Mileage Tracking
- Trip cost tracking
- MPG tracking
- Vehicle parking mapping
- Driving grading
- Highway Speeding Detection (70mph and over)
- Engine Diagnostic checking/alerts
Essentially, this $100 addition to my 2003 Suzuki gives it the functionality (and beyond) of a lot of newer vehicles.
First, even though my 2003 Suzuki Aerio is on the Automatic list of compatible vehicles, I did have some installation trouble.
When you plug the device in to your data port, it connects to your phone and then through your phone it updates the device firmware.
Because I wouldn’t connect fully to my phone – wouldn’t finish the setup because it couldn’t detect ignition – the firmware couldn’t update and therefore it wouldn’t connect…. vicious cycle.
The suggestion from Automatic Support was to set the device up in another vehicle, let it update the firmware, detach it from that car and set it up in mine.
Kind of a laughable solution, but it did work.
Luckily I had access to another vehicle and was able to successfully set up in that, and was able to connect it to my car after this inconvenience.
Yes – mostly.
There has been the odd occasion that the Automatic hasn’t started – for some unknown reason.
The “hard braking” and the “hard acceleration” sensing is really quite strict.
I’ll hear the beeps from the device for either when I don’t consider it warranted.
Hard braking and hard acceleration apparently do affect gas mileage – I can see this – in theory. Beyond gas mileage, braking and acceleration contribute to safe driving and rank on your Automatic driving score.
Hard Braking and Hard Acceleration are numbered by occurrence whereas speed, over 70mph is measured in “time spend over”. You are warned on 3 occasions per trip when your speed reaches 70mph – after that, the Automatic obviously thinks, “ok, he’s ignoring me. I give up”.
The Engine Diagnostic alerts are a great feature.
Because the device is connected to your vehicle data port, it knows just about everything that is going on with your car.
It’ll tell you when your vehicle has an issue and will even connect to the web to translate your obscure vehicle repair code.
Has it affected my driving?
For now, I’d say it has. Maybe it’s the novelty but I am more conscious of my speed, pulling up to a stop and starting.
No longer do tear away from an intersection.
I’ve found myself considering the short trips I take, too. When you see the actual mileage and cost of a trip to the grocery store – even if it’s just a few cents – it all adds up.
Automatic even seems to know when I’m not going anywhere. There are days that I’ll run my remote starter to warm the car etc. and the cost for the trip and MPG will change accordingly.
I’m a fairly competitive person. I don’t like the device giving me it’s warnings and I try to keep my score as high as possible (ranked between 50 and 100).
I do like to see my weekly MPG and MPG per trip.
Will it change?
Yes, it has to. The team at Automatic has made it known that this is a work in progress and that features can, and will change as the project progresses.
Automatic has a very active, very responsive community who are involved in discussions and suggestions. The staff seem pretty responsive on the community forums, too.
An example would be the speed limit changes – different States (and countries) have differing speed limits.
In Pennsylvania, it’s difficult to not hit 70mph on some highways. The speed limit score algorithm has already been modified. I can see it changing further, too.
One feature I’d like to see is something real time on the display.
The Automatic only updates and shows stats for your trip when you stop and turn off the ignition. While you’re driving, the only way you know that Automatic is working is because it says “currently driving”.
It’s connected to my vehicle computer – why not show my speed, RPMs, etc.
Users aren’t likely to have their phones on while they’re driving but something else on the screen would be nice.
Peace of mind?
I don’t have OnStar, I don’t want to pay a monthly subscription for the service and I’d have a hard time getting it for my older model Suzuki anyway.
With the Automatic, know that if I’m in a vehicle collision, various sensors will kick in and, as long as I have cellular service, the Automatic Call Center will be notified and will try to call me to make sure everything is ok. Otherwise Emergency Services will be notified and dispatched to my (GPS) location.
Obviously I haven’t tested this feature – it’s in Beta. Hopefully I won’t need to test it any time soon.
It may help to know the (GPS) location of where I parked too – it shows on a map on your Smart Phone. I haven’t lost my car yet but I can see it being helpful if I did.
Is it worth buying?
I’d say so, if you have the money to spend and an older car that you’d like that little extra functionality in.
Find out more at Automatic.com
Author: Andy Quayle
Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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