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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:15 PM   #1
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Hands-On with the 'Automatic' Connected Driving Assistant System




Announced earlier this year, the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant is a Bluetooth 4.0 device that plugs in to your car's OBD-II port. Typically found somewhere under the steering wheel of every vehicle made after 1996 in the USA, the OBD-II port provides all sorts of useful diagnostic information which traditionally is only used by mechanics and for emissions testing.

Over the years, a number of devices have been released for home mechanics to connect to this port -- both to a Mac via USB and to iOS devices via the dock port. However, for the mechanical layman none of them have been that useful, with functionality specifically for figuring out why your "Check Engine" light is on or otherwise tuning/tweaking your engine.

Automatic changes all that. The Smart Driving Assistant is about the size of two matchbooks, and lives its life constantly connected to your car's OBD-II port. Unboxing the device is uneventful, as all that's really in the box is the Smart Driving Assistant, a small Automatic "A" bumper sticker, and a piece of paper that essentially tells you to download the Automatic app on your iPhone. Setup is simple, and involves creating a simple login to the Automatic service and then pairing your iPhone using the unique security code printed on the bottom of the Smart Driving Assistant.

From there, it asks you to start your vehicle, and you're on your way. Amusingly enough, to get the setup to actually finish the engine of your car has to start. I drive a 2011 Prius, and the internal combustion engine only fires up when it's actually needed. So, there was a bit of confusion between what the app was asking me to do (simply start my car) and what I needed to do, which amounted to just driving around the block so the gas engine started.

The Automatic app runs in the background and automatically connects to the Smart Driving Assistant whenever you get in your car. Regardless of whether or not you even have the app open, once you start driving, it begins tracking everything you're doing. Data points captured include how long you were driving (both in time and distance), your miles per gallon, how many times you both braked or accelerated too hard, and how many minutes you were driving over 70 miles per hour. Your route is also saved and plotted on a map, and by tracking local gas prices the app computes how much each trip cost you.

All of this data is tallied together for your weekly totals and averages which is displayed at the top of your driving timeline. Additionally, using the information the app collects, it computes a "Drive Score" to grade you on how efficiently it thinks you're driving. In its current implementation this scoring system seems crazy, as right now I'm rocking a 35 out of 100 in my Prius, regardless of the fact that I'm exceeding the EPA estimated MPG of my car. The Automatic blog mentions tweaking this formula, as right now it is not computed on a specific car-by-car basis and instead is just grading you on hard brakes, acceleration, and how often you're driving over 70 MPH.

Arguably the most useful feature of the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant's current implementation is seamlessly saving the location of where you parked your car. When you turn off your car, the app tags your current GPS location, and a simple tap loads up a full-screen map showing where you are in relation to your car. In my experience, accuracy of this feature has been fantastic, and way more useful than my typical routine of wandering through the parking lot pressing the lock button on my key fob over and over when I can't find my car.

Without a doubt, the geek-factor of the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant is off the charts. Being able to load up an app and see exactly where your car is, exactly how much each trip cost you in gas, and everything else feels futuristic -- particularly with how seamless this all is with the automatic Bluetooth connection and background data collection. It's also by far the most user-friendly OBD-II device I've seen, in that it parses the data the port can deliver in a very easy to understand format even for the least mechanically-minded drivers out there. The system also remains in beta testing, although it is unclear whether any additional features will be added before the official launch.

However, just how useful the Smart Driving Assistant actually is in reducing fuel consumption is debatable. It aims to save gas by reducing the amount of hard braking you do, how much of a lead foot you have, and how much you speed. But, do you really need a $70 gizmo to tell you that? Just simply making an effort to drive more slowly and conservatively, and both gradually accelerating and braking will have the same effect -- all without spending $70.

Article Link: Hands-On with the 'Automatic' Connected Driving Assistant System
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:18 PM   #2
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So when will my preorder get delivered ?!
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:24 PM   #3
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$70? Your pretty much paying for the software at that price point cause it's not the hardware that's commanding that price.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:26 PM   #4
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You don't have to drive around the block. At least for my 2007 model, slamming the accelerator in park gets the gas engine to start.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:31 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by arkmannj View Post
So when will my preorder get delivered ?!
Current estimate is end of August. Private Beta Users should have their unit and the final of v1 of the software should be completed.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:32 PM   #6
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I really want it. I've tried other OBD solution but the software is terrible, this is really Apple style, simple and clean. It also interest me how much I spend with my trips. Sadly I don't live in US so I think I will wait a lot.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:32 PM   #7
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$70? Your pretty much paying for the software at that price point cause it's not the hardware that's commanding that price.
I beg to differ, there's a lot of work and programming going into the hardware unit itself. It's a one time purchase and unlike other services like this, there is no reoccurring fees.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:33 PM   #8
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I really want one of these, does anybody know if it will work on my 2002 Ford Explorer and 2013 Toyota Corolla? And how about the iPad do they have an app for the iPad? 1 more thing does it have the ability to show the speedometer and other gauges on my iPad/iPhone screen like DashCommand does?
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:36 PM   #9
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So when will my preorder get delivered ?!
I would bet way sooner than the vapourware that is Mavizon/Mavia (http://www.mavizon.com/). My pre-order was supposed to be shipped last November. After months of no communication they now send out an e-mail every couple of months explaining why they are delaying it again and again.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by AppleDeviceUser View Post
I really want one of these, does anybody know if it will work on my 2002 Ford Explorer and 2013 Toyota Corolla? And how about the iPad do they have an app for the iPad? 1 more thing does it have the ability to show the speedometer and other gauges on my iPad/iPhone screen like DashCommand does?
Automatic is continuing to test with different makes and models. When you get ready to order the unit, you will be asked for make and model, it will let you know right then if there's a known issue. Both our vehicles are newer (<10yrs) so they should work with no issue.

At present it's not designed for iPad but you can install it and use it in x2 mode. At present it does not show your speed or other info.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:38 PM   #11
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How to say this politely....

What a piece of...no, that won't work.

Do I give a ...ah...darn if the piece of...er...junk thinks I accelerated too hard? And by whose standards...some dork sitting behind a computer who thinks driving is about going nice and slow (probably in the left lane) in their automatic shift, never-go-over-the-speed-limit, boring piece of...junk...car?

All that other ...ah...stuff (aside from the find your car thing), is useless and silly ca-ca, fit for folks for whom driving is a data gathering chore.

Of course, I'm just speaking for myself, and perhaps a few other people who enjoy driving and have gone to the bother of actually learning how to drive well.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:40 PM   #12
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I don't think that little box is big enough to fit my "Hard Accels" count.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:40 PM   #13
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Is that the port that is hackable when the NSA/CIA want to terminate you?
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:41 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
How to say this politely....

What a piece of...no, that won't work.

Do I give a ...ah...darn if the piece of...er...junk thinks I accelerated too hard? And by whose standards...some dork sitting behind a computer who thinks driving is about going nice and slow (probably in the left lane) in their automatic shift, never-go-over-the-speed-limit, boring piece of...junk...car?

All that other ...ah...stuff (aside from the find your car thing), is useless and silly ca-ca, fit for folks for whom driving is a data gathering chore.

Of course, I'm just speaking for myself, and perhaps a few other people who enjoy driving and have gone to the bother of actually learning how to drive well.
Before going off just what was mentioned in this article, you should check out some of the other cool features, like it will call 911 when you are in accident and it gives the dispatcher your GPS info. It will also tell you why the "Check Engine" light is on, giving you the actual error codes and the remedy for the issue. I understand not everyone cares about pollution and the world we live in, but if people changed their driving habits just a bit, things would be better.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:41 PM   #15
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Location: Canada, eh?
This sounds great. I hope to get one if/when they are available in Canada.

It would be neat if the driving scores could be grouped by car make/model as obviously each car has its own set of driving characteristics. Even better is if the app could compare my driving habits with that of other people driving the same car. Sort of like how you can look up other cars in Fuelly to see how you compare.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:42 PM   #16
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However, just how useful the Smart Driving Assistant actually is in reducing fuel consumption is debatable. It aims to save gas by reducing the amount of hard braking you do, how much of a lead foot you have, and how much you speed. But, do you really need a $70 gizmo to tell you that? Just simply making an effort to drive more slowly and conservatively, and both gradually accelerating and braking will have the same effect -- all without spending $70.
Bravo!!, the best fuel saver is your right foot.
just keep your right foot calm.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:44 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
How to say this politely....

What a piece of...no, that won't work.

Do I give a ...ah...darn if the piece of...er...junk thinks I accelerated too hard? And by whose standards...some dork sitting behind a computer who thinks driving is about going nice and slow (probably in the left lane) in their automatic shift, never-go-over-the-speed-limit, boring piece of...junk...car?

All that other ...ah...stuff (aside from the find your car thing), is useless and silly ca-ca, fit for folks for whom driving is a data gathering chore.

Of course, I'm just speaking for myself, and perhaps a few other people who enjoy driving and have gone to the bother of actually learning how to drive well.
Uh, what?
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:45 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by smittyofdhs View Post
Before going off just what was mentioned in this article, you should check out some of the other cool features, like it will call 911 when you are in accident and it gives the dispatcher your GPS info. It will also tell you why the "Check Engine" light is on, giving you the actual error codes and the remedy for the issue. I understand not everyone cares about pollution and the world we live in, but if people changed their driving habits just a bit, things would be better.
In the end what I really care about is fuel consumption and related metrics (mileage, cost per trip, etc.) and car diagnostic/trivia. The geotagging features (911 dispatch, "where did I park") are nice too.

Assigning a score of my driving style is just another way of presenting how efficiently (or not) I consume gas. "How much am I spending on gas?" is ultimately what it all boils down to.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:48 PM   #19
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PRISM integration

So all this data goes up to Automatic servers and thus the NSA? Can you link the BT ODB dongle to the phone without the app uploading that data?
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:49 PM   #20
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Got mine in the mail yesterday. I registered it with my 2005 Scion tC, but of course by the time they started shipping these devices I had already bought a newer car. My newer car wasn't on their list of known supported cars.

However, it has been working like a charm in my newer Subaru Legacy 3.0R.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:50 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
How to say this politely....

What a piece of...no, that won't work.

Do I give a ...ah...darn if the piece of...er...junk thinks I accelerated too hard? And by whose standards...some dork sitting behind a computer who thinks driving is about going nice and slow (probably in the left lane) in their automatic shift, never-go-over-the-speed-limit, boring piece of...junk...car?
...
That particular feature, obviously, is for people who already think for themselves that they are driving inefficiently. This is a tool to help. Among a great many other features.

You might as well ask, Do I care if some so-called "scale" thinks I weigh too much?? That scale is useful because you already care about your weight, not because you care about the scale-manufacturer's opinions.


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So all this data goes up to Automatic servers and thus the NSA? Can you link the BT ODB dongle to the phone without the app uploading that data?
Good question (as horrifying as it is to hear myself say that). If there's any online component, it should be optional I would hope! The thing should be able to run on BT alone with no Internet involved.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:57 PM   #22
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Thanks for what looks like a good and honest review bot (which I find weird in MR),
I guess I will get it for $25 or none then lol
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:57 PM   #23
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Beta Tester here.

So the article pretty much sums up how this aims to save you money: by making you drive slower.

In short, if you tend to drive in the passing lane for the majority of your commute, like I do (or used to ), the little device's benefits become immediately apparent. I'm getting a full quarter tank more than I was before.

The software works very well- or it used to up until two updates ago at the start of August that has rendered my app useless. As for the device itself, it works regardless of whether you're connected or not, and the beeps are pretty unobtrusive, so I've still been able to benefit from the fuel savings. The parking location feature is nice as well.

My largest gripe with the Automatic is that it requires Location Services to be turned on at all times. I hope they find a workaround for this (they do explain the reasoning for this on their forums), because it does cause a significant battery drain even while you are not driving. The cure for this is to simply disable the Location Services for Automatic when not driving in the Settings -> Privacy menu.

All in all, I'm glad I have this device. It's not for everyone, but for me not having to fill up twice a week two times has already caused the Automatic to pay for itself. Very satisfied.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 01:59 PM   #24
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I have mine since 2 days. I love how easy it is to use - you set it up once and than can forget about it, all you have to do is to look from time to time at the data. I wish they would add more statistics, averages, ... etc - but it is still in an early phase and according to their blog they keep adding new features. The software is just beautiful and easy to use.
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Old Aug 9, 2013, 02:03 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
Do I give a ...ah...darn if the piece of...er...junk thinks I accelerated too hard? And by whose standards...some dork sitting behind a computer who thinks driving is about going nice and slow (probably in the left lane) in their automatic shift, never-go-over-the-speed-limit, boring piece of...junk...car?
So you mean a Toyota Prius
You know, I've probably saved gas by stepping on it to get through a few almost-yellow lights and around morons who don't move when it's green here in LA. Sadly, I am stuck with an auto-shift car.

----------

All I want it something that will say why the **** the "check engine" light is on. That alone is worth $70.

----------

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Without a doubt, the geek-factor of the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant is off the charts.
Geek factors don't go off the charts. They go over 9000.
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