Automatic Link in-car dongle brings your car’s diagnostics to iPhone

By , Mar 12, 2013

Automatic today announced an interesting new dongle which connects to your iPhone and leverages its Bluetooth connection to retrieve some useful data from your car’s onboard computer, adding a dash of Google Maps and gas pricing info so you can plan your trips and track fuel efficiency, but also keep tabs on your vehicle’s critical data, check those engine alerts with actionable recommendations and more.

It connects to your car’s OBD-II Data Link Connector to retrieve fuel, mileage and engine data and beam it to your iPhone via Bluetooth. A companion iPhone app combines this data with your GPS location, current fuel pricing and map data to track your drives, offer assistance for a bunch of issues and even automatically call 911 and your family members in an unfortunate case of a car accident…

As noted by Federico Viticci, the accessory using the OBD-II data link means it will only work with cars produced after 1996. OBD-II requires the data connector to be within 2 feet of the steering wheel or within reach of the driver.

Automatic Link (image 001)

The Verge confirms Automatic has already tested the Link with “200 model/year combinations” for OBD-II and iPhone compatibility. The publication got some hands-on time with the app:

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.

There’s also the accelerometer sensor which picks up sudden brakes and quick starts, letting you later see those events on a map of your trip.

Automatic Link (image 003)

More importantly, if the accelerometer detects a car crash event, it will trigger your phone to alert Automatic HQ servers to call the nearest 911 center with details about your accident.

Optionally, the app can even inform your family members to let them know what’s happened.

The app also offers other features, like a fuel-efficiency score and engine alert codes which allow the software to pinpoint engine problems down to an oil leak, say, which certainly beats the largely uninformative “Check Engine” in-car light alert.

Automatic Link (image 002)

Codes come with actionable responses to each one. For example, you bring up a map of nearby mechanics with a five-star rating pulled from Yelp. For simpler problems that don’t require your immediate attention, you can easily turn off the “Check Engine” light from within the app itself.

There’s clearly a tremendous potential for innovation in this space. Onboard car computers are mostly dumb in that they don’t make full use of the real-time engine data in a proactive manner and Automatic proves this is changing as Silicon Valley startups and tech giants set their sights on the automotive space.

The Link is launching this May for $69.95

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  • http://twitter.com/Choorel Casey Hoorelbeke

    This could be great to put in a kids car to make sure they are protected and help with noticing things like the check engine light and calculating gas cost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000320151996 Sergio Jiménez

    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jason.dennery Jason Dennery

      Exactly. Lots of potential!

  • Irfan Tarique

    This guy looks like the guy from smosh LOL…

    • http://twitter.com/ExWoW MiKey

      I knew he seemed familiar :D You’re right HAHA :D

  • http://twitter.com/ze_rusty Sachin

    Will connect to all bluetooth enabled cars?

    • blu

      This is different, this is not a BT for the phone to talk/music and such, it is a seperate software/hardware that communicates with the cars onboard computer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/xhArRiSoNxD Harrison Grant

    What I want to know how accurate this thing is. I have a 04 Honda and I wonder how well it outputs gas data. I know on newer cars it says something like “40 miles left” my car doesn’t say that. I wonder how this device will know from an older vehicle.

    • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

      Your vehicle’s on-board computer is what keeps track of both your fuel usage and the speed you’re moving at, adjusting the fuel gauge to the “remaining fuel” it detects and the speedometer to the “speed” it detects.

      Automatic here simply makes use of those detected data to calculate the total distance you can travel with your remaining fuel.

  • mdee4

    Does anyone know if the Pontiac Grand Prix has this data port?

    • blu

      If it is a 1996 or later it is required to by law.

  • blu

    These have been around for a while, just none of them work very well and most require a JB phone to work since BT is gimped by default on the iPhone, with most also requiring you to purchase additional software in addition to the OBD II BT device.
    If this thing works on a non JB iPhone and the COMPLETE software is included with it then $70 is a great deal.

    • alaskanjackal

      I just got mine today. Setup was a breeze (unlike with other devices), but it’s kind of a dumbed-down app–it shows fuel economy after a trip and beeps at you if you accelerate or brake too hard, but it doesn’t (that I’ve found so far) give you access to the raw data that other devices do. It’s clearly aimed at helping people drive more economically and not much more.

      The app’s interface is beautiful, though, and it has nice touches like remembering where you parked and things like that, but I’d advise against it if you’re more of a gear-head wanting to know what’s going on under the hood–unless they step up and add an “advanced users” screen for us tinkerers. (Shouldn’t be too hard for them to do–they’re already collecting the data!)

      • blu

        Good to know. I want more than a dumbed down device.

      • alaskanjackal

        I just found the private forums for beta participants, and there’s a pretty strong demand for access to the raw data, and the developers have acknowledged they see the demand. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’ll be development along those lines, but the possibility’s out there.

      • blu

        I’m sure it will come, at a cost. :(

  • Philip Yearbury

    Just wondering, can an iPhone connect to more than 1 Bluetooth device, at the same time ??

    • http://twitter.com/stevenlue stevenlue

      Yes. It connects with my heart rate monitor and my wireless headphones when I run.

  • http://twitter.com/rick5up Ricky

    Kinda cool you know?

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    AMAZING!! This is the right way to make vehicles smart!!! No need to buy a new vehicle to gain all the awesome functionality, will definitely be grabbing 1 for my car :D

    I know this will definitely be abused by the government to make speed cameras a thing of the past, but I’m a good driver, I take safety as top priority when on the road :)

  • s0me

    awww i dont have an ODB port

  • iDara09

    Auxo, wait!! no?

  • Andrea Verocio

    There decision to make the app iOS7 only was very disappointing. Fact of the matter is the numbers from apple with iOS7 adoptions are extremely hyped up.
    Devs should take great care if they want continued sales.