Car companies are pushing to make cars smarter, connected products. We see it in everything from GM's 4G cars to Volvo's auto-braking technology. The problem is that in order to get these smarter features, it seems, you have to buy a new car. Fortunately, for those of us that can't or don't want to buy a new car to benefit from smart car technology, there's a new tool, Automatic.
The device, referred to as a smart driving assistant, plugs into your car's data port -- the same one used by your mechanic when you get your car serviced. It can be used in most gas-powered cars sold in the United States after 1996.
With that tiny device plugged into your car, a wealth of data from your car can be accessed from your smartphone using bluetooth technology. Not only can you find out what's going on inside your car -- MPG, miles driven, and gas used -- it also gathers data on your driving habits to help you drive more efficiently, with the goal of saving on gas. Each week it turns that data into a driving score. If you've been speeding, hitting the brakes too hard, or accelerating too quickly you'll get a lower score with tips on how to improve the next week.
In addition to driving data, you can also find out what's wrong if your "check engine" light goes on. No need to take it to a mechanic just to get a diagnosis. Other smart features include: the ability to sense if your car is in a crash (it automatically calls 911) and, with GPS, you just need to check your smartphone if you forgot where you parked. Here's a look: