There's an outlet located under your steering wheel in your car that connects to your vehicle's onboard diagnostic computer. You probably don't think about it unless you're taking your ride to be serviced. But you can take advantage of a bunch of data it tracks with a new piece of hardware called Automatic. It has the potential to make you a better driver and save you a little money along the way.
We saw Automatic in action on a little drive around the streets of New York City last week. Along with an iPhone app, the little dongle will track your fuel mileage and remember where you parked.
It will also even give you a little notification if you're breaking too hard or accelerating too fast. Why? These are apparently a couple of habits that make you use more fuel than you need to. How are you driving? It will give you personalised feedback every week in score from 1-100. And it tries to lookout for your car too. Engine light flips on? You can tap a notification to see what the issue is. If it's no big deal, you can turn the light off all from within the app. Or you can look up a nearby mechanic to get things sorted out. And god forbid you get in a wreck, Automatic will automatically of course call emergency responders and send texts to three numbers you pre-determined to let them know you're OK.
Automatic doesn't do turn-by-turn navigation. It's pretty pared down in terms of functionality — the founders told us they weren't trying to do things that other apps are already doing, like giving directions. That simplicity is kind of nice, though it certainly leaves a little bit to be desired.
The dongle goes on sale today for $US70 on Automatic's site and ships in May, but unfortunately it looks like it's only available in the US right now.