'Automatic Link' App and Bluetooth Adapter Create Connected Car for Diagnostics and Safety

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Apr 12, 2001
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A new combination of iPhone app and plug-in adapter from Automatic to read data from your car's onboard diagnostics (OBD) port turns virtually any car manufactured after 1996 into a connected car, providing detailed data on your driving habits and cost of driving (via The Verge).

The OBD-II data port is a standard feature on all modern cars, providing access to fuel, mileage and engine data. Plugging in a small $69.95 reader allows this data to be transmitted via Bluetooth to your iPhone as you drive. The app then analyzes this to log a range of data, including fuel efficiency, driving style and engine performance. The app then combines this data with GPS info and an online database to tell you the cost of every journey you make.
The hardware unit connects to a car's OBD-II Data Link Connector -- an often-overlooked data port that's been standard on every car since 1996. Through the data link, Automatic has access to fuel, mileage, and engine information, which it sends to your phone through its Bluetooth antenna. From there, the app pulls in GPS, fuel pricing, and map data to build a comprehensive picture of every drive you take. When you stop to fill up, Automatic uses geolocation data to determine which gas station you're at, then uses its own database of stations and daily prices to calculate how much you paid.
Audio pings tell you when you are braking sharply or accelerating hard, driving behaviors that can increase gas mileage by a third. The app can also read and reset "engine check" codes, allowing you to determine whether that annoying light on your dash is something serious or trivial, and allow you to switch it off again without the need to visit a mechanic.

Automatic also includes a "crash alert" system, using the iPhone's accelerometer to detect certain types of crashes and automatically call 911 to report name, location, and vehicle description.

Automatic Link is not the first product to offer access to ODB data on iOS devices, but it does appear to offer a more complete feature set and polished user interface than has been seen on products released to date. Automatic Link launches in May, with pre-orders available now.

Article Link: 'Automatic Link' App and Bluetooth Adapter Create Connected Car for Diagnostics and Safety
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
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Very interesting... There are so many warning lights on my dash that I don't know what they mean at all... $70 is more than I want to pay, but given how much it costs to fix something when it brakes, I think it might be a worthwhile purchase if I can do preventative maintance (is it actually any cheaper?) or something...

Question: how is the accessory powered? Does the OBD-II power or does the accessory have a battery? If it has a battery, how long does it last? 2 weeks? More? Less?
 

oneMadRssn

macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
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How does this one work, but every $15 bluetooth OBD2 dongle on ebay and amazon don't work with the iOS, but that work perfectly well with laptops and android devices? What is special about this one (other than it's high price)?
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,876
4,685
How does this one work, but every $15 bluetooth OBD2 dongle on ebay and amazon don't work with the iOS, but that work perfectly well with laptops and android devices? What is special about this one (other than it's high price)?
Making an accessory work with iOS involves enrolling in the MFi program and acquiring special authentication chips from Apple.
 

CoreForce

macrumors regular
Aug 28, 2003
126
17
Zurich, Switzerland
GoPoint Tech does have this adapter and iPhone app for years now, this fuel efficiency thing included.
I'm using it for quite some time now and it works like a charm. Also the GoPoint allows one to connect it with other apps like Harry's Laptimer, Optrix etc.
MacRumors could have performed better on this "news" story.
 
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notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
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Canada, eh?
Very interesting... There are so many warning lights on my dash that I don't know what they mean at all... $70 is more than I want to pay, but given how much it costs to fix something when it brakes, I think it might be a worthwhile purchase if I can do preventative maintance (is it actually any cheaper?) or something...

Question: how is the accessory powered? Does the OBD-II power or does the accessory have a battery? If it has a battery, how long does it last? 2 weeks? More? Less?
Yes, the OBD2 port provides power when the car is running.

It would cost about the same to simply buy an OBD2 reader from an automotive tool shop. It wouldn't be as fully featured, but if all you want to know is why your check engine light is on, it's a good tool to have. Some shops will charge $25-50 just to do the diagnostic, and it could be for a reason as simple as you forgot to screw in the gas cap all the way tight.
 

x13gamer

macrumors regular
Oct 27, 2006
210
19
Pure Michigan
They have had quite a few diagnostic BT adaptors for a few years. the only significant thing about this seems to be it tells you about your driving habits. It also may prove that the "safe driving snap-shot" is not for you.
 

oneMadRssn

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Sep 8, 2011
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Making an accessory work with iOS involves enrolling in the MFi program and acquiring special authentication chips from Apple.
You're saying Apple regulates bluetooth communication now too? Does every single bluetooth headset also get MFi certification? I doubt it...
 

Carlanga

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Nov 5, 2009
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RexInTheCity

macrumors newbie
Jun 9, 2008
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0
Very interesting... There are so many warning lights on my dash that I don't know what they mean at all... $70 is more than I want to pay, but given how much it costs to fix something when it brakes, I think it might be a worthwhile purchase if I can do preventative maintance (is it actually any cheaper?) or something...

Question: how is the accessory powered? Does the OBD-II power or does the accessory have a battery? If it has a battery, how long does it last? 2 weeks? More? Less?
Autozone, and I assume other auto parts stores, will read your error codes for free.
 

Amazing Iceman

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Nov 8, 2008
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rshanahan

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Dec 24, 2007
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North East, MD
Looks cool, but I was reading the features on the website. I don't understand how driving 10 mph over the speed limit uses more fuel. Does it know what the speed limit is on the road you are currently driving on? I think the fuel efficiency of a vehicle depends on it's design, not how much over/under the speed limit you are driving. I knock off a point for that comment on their site.

Along the fuel efficiency 'alarms' (braking too fast, stepping on the gas too fast), I would hope that there is some intelligence built in to the app, comparing it to the actual fuel consumption of your car relative to historical data it has gathered. We all know flooring it uses more gas, but what I'd like to know is what acceleration 'curve' is best for fuel efficiency for my car.
 

Amazing Iceman

macrumors 601
Nov 8, 2008
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Autozone, and I assume other auto parts stores, will read your error codes for free.
Not every place will do it for free.
There's more to this device than just telling you the Error codes. It also lets you reset the codes, and see other statistics and detail information about your car.
You may not be interested in doing all this, so this device may it be for you.
At $69 it doesn't t seem expensive. I thought it was going to cost more. Last time I check, about 2 years ago, the wired versions were above $150.

This is a very unobtrusive attachment that could remain plugged into your car at all times.

----------

Just ordered one for myself and one for my dad
I asked the developers if it will work with an iPad in the meantime until I get an iPhone. I don't see why not, but I'm asking to be sure.
 

E.Lizardo

macrumors 68000
May 28, 2008
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Looks cool, but I was reading the features on the website. I don't understand how driving 10 mph over the speed limit uses more fuel. Does it know what the speed limit is on the road you are currently driving on? I think the fuel efficiency of a vehicle depends on it's design, not how much over/under the speed limit you are driving. I knock off a point for that comment on their site.

Along the fuel efficiency 'alarms' (braking too fast, stepping on the gas too fast), I would hope that there is some intelligence built in to the app, comparing it to the actual fuel consumption of your car relative to historical data it has gathered. We all know flooring it uses more gas, but what I'd like to know is what acceleration 'curve' is best for fuel efficiency for my car.
Are you seriously saying that fuel efficiency is not related to speed????
I hope I read that wrong!
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,052
159
Canada, eh?
Looks cool, but I was reading the features on the website. I don't understand how driving 10 mph over the speed limit uses more fuel. Does it know what the speed limit is on the road you are currently driving on? I think the fuel efficiency of a vehicle depends on it's design, not how much over/under the speed limit you are driving. I knock off a point for that comment on their site.

Along the fuel efficiency 'alarms' (braking too fast, stepping on the gas too fast), I would hope that there is some intelligence built in to the app, comparing it to the actual fuel consumption of your car relative to historical data it has gathered. We all know flooring it uses more gas, but what I'd like to know is what acceleration 'curve' is best for fuel efficiency for my car.
The app wouldn't know the speed limit of whatever road you are driving on, but it's pretty basic that driving too fast uses more gas than driving "normal" speed, whatever that speed happens to be for any given road.

As for the optimum acceleration curve for your particular vehicle, I imagine that would best be found by driver experimentation.
 

baryon

macrumors 68040
Oct 3, 2009
3,559
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And where exactly can this OBD2 connector be found in a car? I don't see any sign of a port anywhere.
 

extricated

macrumors 6502
Jul 14, 2011
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Arkansas
$70 is pretty minimal in relation to potential cost savings.
I'm not exactly a "shade tree mechanic", but I'm excited about the possibilities of this device.
 

oneMadRssn

macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
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MFi is basically for devices that physically connect to an Apple device or use AirPlay.
Bluetooth devices don't require it.
MFi has always existed... BT headsets are the ones that work w/out being a part of the MFi. Here is the full list of the ones that don't need to pay:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3647?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

Info about MFi:
http://mfi.apple.com/faqs
I guess this all comes from the fact that we don't know what protocol those cheap OBD2 dongles use, and what profile this one uses. To me, it seems like PAN or MAP should be able to send those ODB2 diagnostics just fine, without having to do bother with MFi.

There are ODB2 dongles that work fine with iOS, but they use Wifi and a web interface instead of bluetooth. There are even a few apps in the app store that take advantage of this. However, the system is clunky (requires manually setting IP and network info), and costly.
 

0815

macrumors 68000
Jul 9, 2010
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here and there but not over there
Autozone, and I assume other auto parts stores, will read your error codes for free.
This does so much more than just reading the error code for you.

The true value of this package is in the software and the features they added to the app that make use of the geolocation, getting automatically the price you payed for the gas, the accident detection/emergency calls, .... etc.

It is probably not 100% innovative, nothing groundbreaking new, but it is combining many existing technologies into an easy to use package that runs in the background without you noticing it and lots of software features. (Just works, no interaction involved).

I pre-ordered one since I don't think any other competing offer has the same easy use and full feature list wrapped in a beautiful app.


There are ODB2 dongles that work fine with iOS, but they use Wifi and a web interface instead of bluetooth. There are even a few apps in the app store that take advantage of this. However, the system is clunky (requires manually setting IP and network info), and costly.
This is what sets this package apart from the others.
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,052
159
Canada, eh?
And where exactly can this OBD2 connector be found in a car? I don't see any sign of a port anywhere.
Somewhere in the driver side footwell. Sometimes it's pretty visible if you put your head at the seat level and look around, other times it's partially hidden. But if your car is newer than 1996, it definitely has one. It took us a while to find it on my brother's Honda Civic, but there it was to the right of the gas pedal.
 
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