Automatic Link helps you save fuel by turning driving into a game

Automatic Link helps you save fuel by turning driving into a game

Summary: The $70 hardware device plugs into the data port in your vehicle and provides a wealth of knowledge about your driving habits so that you can save fuel -- and money. The hardware began shipping to private beta participants and yours truly just received his.

TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone
Automatic Link helps save fuel (and money) - Jason O'Grady

I love car apps.

I regularly use the Waze app to find out what's going on with traffic (INRIX looks good too), Gas Buddy to find cheap gas, and RoadAhead to find out what food options are at the next rest area. I used to obsessively track my fuel economy with GasCubby until I got a car with the MPG on the instrument panel. I also love the iPhone-connected Cobra Atom radar detector, and commuting would be virtually impossible for me without the Downcast and Audible apps.

I just received my private beta Link hardware from Automatic (pre-order for $69.95) and am enjoying it immensely. Automatic Link (pictured) is a small hardware device that plugs into your vehicle's diagnostic/data port (usually located just below the dash) that tracks your driving habits and gives you tips on how to save money by driving more economically.

The Automatic Link has two (count 'em!) logic boards - Jason O'Grady

Link connects to the free iOS app over Bluetooth Low Energy and displays driving data in an elegant and easy-to-understand UI that tracks how many miles you've driven, driving hours, fuel usage (in dollars), and actual MPG, even for older cars that don't display fuel efficiency on the dashboard. 

A screenshot of the Automatic app for iOS - Jason O'Grady

An exceedingly cool features is that Automatic detects fill-ups and tracks local gas prices (on newer vehicles) to show you how much you're spending on each trip in real dollars. Automatic combines all the data it collects into a score on a 100 point scale and I was able to score a 96 in my first test of the hardware.

In addition to the data provided by the iOS app, the Link hardware contains a small speaker that emits different sounds to alert you when you're accelerating or braking too fast, or speeding — which can have a negative impact on fuel economy. It's like having your wife driving in the passenger seat, 100 percent of the time! Of course, I jest. She actually reads these posts (and I like to eat dinner.)

While it bears a resemblence to the SnapShot device from Progressive Insurance, instead of ratting out your bad driving habits to your insurer (who could raise your rates or even drop you) Automatic only shares your driving details with you. You can read their privacy policy here. Insert your favorite NSA joke here.

In addition to its fuel-saving features, Automatic has several OnStar-like features, minus the recurring fees. The Automatic Link includes an accelerometer that can detect many types of crashes and can use your phone's data connection to report a crash to 911* with your name, location, and vehicle description. After help is dispatched, Automatic can send a text message to a loved one to let them know what happened, where you are, and that help is on the way.

Automatic can send you a push notification when the dreaded "Check Engine" light comes on and can decode the cryptic Engine Trouble Codes generated by your vehicle and offer possible solutions. For simple problems, you can even clear the light yourself saving a trip to the shop. It can even help remember where you parked, which I could have used when searching for my car in the long-term parking lot at midnight last night after a week's vacation. 

Check to see if your vehicle is compatible and find more answers on the Automatic QA page.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone

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  • Jason D. O'Grady

    You drive a Honda? Thank you for giving America Automakers and the tens of thousands of employees the finger!
    • Actually

      Honda vehicles sold here in the US are made here in the US and by US workers. The computers, smartphones, tablets, etc. we use to comment on these forums however are not. In regards to American Automakers there are few vehicles totally made in the US or with all US parts - GM for example has many of their vehicles assembled in Mexico.
  • Produced in the USA

    FWIW, the Honda Pilot is produced in Lincoln, Alabama ( Now, can we get back on topic?

    Jason D. O'Grady
  • Check out DriveGain

    I have been using the DriveGain app for quite a while now.

    DriveGain does not require the adaptor and estimates the fuel consumption based on Make & Model of car and the movement of the vehicle. This is suprisingly quite accurate.

    It has improved my driving and is good for educating people as to what it is about their driving behaviour that causes fuel consumption.
  • File all this under 'Get A Life'

    Firstly, to PogoBlue, I can only imagine you once had one of those bumper stickers reading, "out of work... eat your Honda'. Don't be a hypocritical fool. Most of your beloved Apple components are not made in America, nor, likely, the clothes you wear nor the food you eat, nor your funky camera nor all that Wallmart crap you buy. In fact, I'd gamble that at least 80% of the stuff of life you wrap yourself in, is not made in the underworked, overpaid, overfed realm of your homeland. Except maybe your views on terrorism... those are likely 100% homegrown delusional American manifestations.

    To Mr. O'Grady... you also need to start revelling in the real world a bit more. Seriously, if you need an app to tell you you're speeding, you probably shouldn't own a car. And if you need an app to advise where cheap gas is, just keep in mind that you, like all of us will pay whatever the !@#$ the oil companies want to milk us for. You'll buy gas whether you save 2 cents or not. So my two cents worth to you is simply, get your head out of your technology, look around, say hello to a real person rather than your widgets of mass communication that really leave you wallowing alone in all your bits and bytes. Happiness doesn't actually come packaged with a USB port. It comes with exploring and interacting with your world with all your functioning senses, not your GUI or WYSIWYG gadgets. Smell the flowers Jason. Unless of course you've found an app that does all the smelling for you.
    • Wow

      You DO realize that you are commenting on a tech blog right? You know, a blog that deals with the many nuances and advances of technology. You get that, right? And as a tech blogger Mr. O'Grady is going to do his job and use the tech gadgets he blogs about. Personally I use tech quite a bit - I also like to walk over to the fence line and talk to my next door neighbor, to to a drinking hole and spend some time with friends, eat dinner with my family and talk about the day and things going on on the world. IOW tech and real life interactions are not mutually exclusive.
      • Wow it is

        I get it, athynz, I really do. I've been reading O'Grady's blog for some time, and I'll gladly admit it's often a good read, and that O'Grady is doing his job. I also appreciate your comments about your own regard for real world interaction, and your "not mutually exclusive" point is uncontested.
        What I do contest is the proliferation of largely useless, undermining hardware and software, frequently cloaked as the 'next greatest thing' and offering so much less, yet often creating a sudden dependency where there never was one before (like cigarettes and Facebook).

        O'Grady's latest blog is the crap of life - promotion and support for technology that makes us even less than we've already been whittled down to. Here, have this, it's new, forget what you're capable of doing and rely on us to get you where you need to be, spending the least amount of time taking in the scenery and more time reading this little screen full of nice whiz bang graphics and things you already know... LIKE YOU'RE GOING TOO FAST! Would you like that information automatically transferred to police databases or would you like a button that gives you the choice to turn it off?

        My neighbour is most happy with her newer Honda, which comes with a rear-view camera. I figure that must be some sort of Honda fail-safe device, just in case they forgot to instal windows and mirrors on her particular vehicle! Seriously, does a passenger vehicle need a camera for already inadequate drivers to rely on, or should they be turning their heads and using their natural abilities to determine speed, distance, available space, etc.? Great for freight drivers and fighter pilots but keep it out of everyday life, because it makes us less than what we were.

        O'Grady's post doesn't deal with car cameras of course (though he might have pontificated about such earlier?) but it does support more of the same, that encourages people to take all the personal effort out of getting from A-B safely, efficiently and economically. Once upon a time millions of people could do that without turning on a computing device. Astonishing isn't it to think that we're actually quite capable of planing a trip all by ourselves, and determining how it all worked out in the end, without the latest plugin. In fairness though that was a time before texting and Tweets and Likes, when ordinary folk were able to make a plan, in detail, stick to obligations and responsibilities and follow that plan through, if only to the watering hole you mentioned. And we didn't need to connect our breathalizer app to the bar to determine if we've had one too many. Glory days lost in a world of irresponsible technology fostering the great dumb-down of the swollen masses thirsting to be one, unique and branded, yet part of a surge of 'friends' collecting every technological nugget out there and spending the rest of their misguided and mishapen lives first figuring out how to use it all, then respond to all those update available prompts.

        This post of mine, like O'Grady's ode to car junk, has little place on a forum for useful advances in technology. There is validity to the technology of course, just not in the manner O'Grady and the manufacturers suggest.