Talking tech since 2003

About a year ago I pre-ordered the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant after seeing it talked about on Twitter, a number of months past and then in early August it finally showed up on my doorstep.  My early experiences with the Automatic were very positive, the Automatic is easy to install into your car and getting it connected to your smartphone isn’t much more difficult. And now, after using it for quite some time I can say the Automatic has definitely been a worthwhile purchase, my driving habits have improved which means I’m saving money on gas and I feel safer driving now than ever before (thanks to Crash Alert — which we’ll discuss a little later).

I recently got a chance to speak with Ljuba Miljkovic, who is the head of product at Automatic about where the company’s at and where it’s heading, but before we get into that here’s some background information. The average American spends between $2,000 and $3,000 per year on gas, wouldn’t it be great if you could spend less on gas just by analyzing some data about your car and then using that data to improve your driving habits?  Plus, Automatic can also tell you exactly why things like that pesky check engine light came on saving you a headache at the mechanic.  Data is the name of the game with Automatic.

Driving Score

automatic-scoreAs I covered in my article outlining my initial experience with Automatic, one of the key features of the product is the driving score.  Automatic assigns a score to you based on your driving habits (the score can change every week).  According to Mr. Miljkovic, the average score went from around 70 to 93–and [no surprise] the longer people used Automatic the better their score got.  What’s more is interesting is that the company is noticing that after two months of using the product people’s scores go up 20-30 percent.

In order to ensure customers find Automatic’s data useful (if your score is always near perfect — what more can you get out of that data?) Ljuba tells me the company is working to adjust different aspects of the score to make sure it remains useful.

Crash Alert

But it’s not just helping change driving habits that the company is after, they also want to help save lives.  That’s the idea behind Crash Alert, a free feature of Automatic that typically costs a few hundred dollars per year to get in your car through other services. Every Automatic has accelerometer built-in to the device, that piece of technology paired with an algorithm and lots of research on the side of the Automatic team allowed them to be able to determine when your car has been in a severe crash.  If you do get into a crash a call center agent will attempt to call you to check on you, if you are unable to answer the call for whatever reason (e.g. you’re badly hurt, trapped, or unconscious), then they will then call local authorities to send help to you (using your GPS coordinates).

IFTTT

A month ago Automatic partnered with IFTTT in an effort to open its API to developers and is already seeing huge success and adoption. Automatic’s channel on IFTTT is currently seventh in terms of number of recipes created with some of the recipes having over 1,000 uses. Additionally, according to Mr. Miljkovic, 10 percent of Automatic users are utilizing recipes on IFTTT.

Mr. Miljkovic shared a couple of his favorite recipes with me which included, having the Automatic notify his significant other when he leaves work and a recipe that lets him share his location with his car pool buddy when he picks him up for work every day. Those are just two of many, if you’re interested in checking out all of the recipes head over to the Automatic IFTTT channel.

Bluetooth Low Energy

bluetooth-leOne of the complaints I’ve heard a lot of regarding the Automatic is that it can have trouble staying connected to your smartphone.  Ljuba did acknowledge that this is a real problem, but attributed it to the fact that Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) is still very new technology, meaning that there are definitely bugs that need to be ironed out. That being said, he assured me that they take these bugs very seriously and track them closely.  In fact, the company has put together a small team dedicated to fixing Automatic and phone connection issues, so you can definitely expect it to continue to improve over time.

Future Features

While Mr. Miljkovic wasn’t able to provide me with specific future features and capabilities of the Automatic he did point me in the right direction. Automatic takes user feedback very seriously and in addition to that spends a great deal of time in its community forums where users share their feature ideas/suggestions all the time.  A brief look at the top ideas leads me to think more real-time data is coming very soon for things like engine statistic (e.g. temperature sensors, RPM, etc).  Other future features could include things like maintenance reminders so you know when you need that next oil change.

Automatic is currently available for purchase for $99.95.  What are you waiting for? Get your butt into gear and order it.


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