Introducing  Mileage Expensing with Concur and Automatic

Introducing Painless Mileage Expensing with Concur

For all you business travelers out there, our latest integration lets you easily expense your business mileage with Concur, right from your phone or desktop computer. No more logging miles by hand or estimating mileage. Automatic and Concur have joined forces to take care of that for you.

This new integration, built on our connected car platform, lets you send any trip captured with Automatic to your Concur account with one click.


Setup is crazy simple

Just sign in to both your Automatic and Concur accounts to see all your trips. Each trip includes your mileage, a route map, start/end address, and even a visual receipt. Attach any trip you like to any expense report, and even create new ones on the fly.


Efficient, accurate and accountable expensing

Business mileage expensing has always been a natural fit for Automatic. For people who drive for work, the worse part of expensing those trips is the manual estimation and entry. This integration gets rid of that step. And for employers equipping fleets Automatic and Concur, this integration ensures complete accuracy and accountability for every mile on each expense report submitted by their drivers.

One more app for your car

One app at a time, we’re moving forward in our mission to connect every car on the road to a wider world of apps and services. Concur joins Nest, Jawbone, and IFTTT, among others, as another app for your car available through Automatic.

Learn more about the Automatic integration with Concur


5 Ways to Update Car Insurance for the Connected World

When I first moved to the U.S. six years ago as a grad student, I bought a 1998 Honda Accord. It had seen better days, but it was a great car. Unfortunately, I had a rude awakening when I tried to buy a car insurance policy: it would cost me an entire month’s salary to insure it for the year.

This made no sense. I had a decade of driving experience and a clean record. Shouldn’t my premium reflect that? I knew I was a good driver, but as a new driver to the U.S. I had no data to prove it.

Right around this time my co-founder Jerry and I were in grad school studying transportation and driving behavior. It was where we had the fundamental insight that inspired Automatic: cars are just big computers on wheels. If I could somehow access the data about my safe driving habits and show it to my insurance company, I bet I could get a premium that fit my actual risk profile.


It was where we had the fundamental insight that inspired Automatic: cars are just big computers on wheels.


At Automatic, we aren’t just unlocking the power of the data hidden in cars. We’re rethinking how cars can fit into our lives, including how we insure them. Today’s insurance policies need to change to take advantage of the connected car technology that’s coming. Here’s what we believe insurance for the connected world should look like:

1. Connected car insurance should be fair

Insurance companies evaluate a lot of risk factors in calculating your premium: how long you’ve had your license, your accident history, the kind of car you drive, and whether you live in a high or low crime neighborhood. But they don’t know how much you drive or how safe your driving habits are. They don’t know this because they’ve never had the technology to get that data—at least, until now.

Drivers also should get the discounts they deserve. There’s no reason a responsible driver should be forced to subsidize someone else’s bad behavior. As a lower risk to the insurance company, a safe driver should pay less for insurance than a risky one. It’s only fair.

2. Connected car insurance should be transparent

Transparency is the key to making sure drivers never feel spied on. This principle is why our teen driver program License+ isn’t a typical parent-spies-on-kid product, but one where both parent and teen are active participants. The same goes for insurance. Drivers should know exactly what information they’re sharing with their insurance company and what it’s being used for so they can make the conscious decision to opt in or out.

 3. Connected car insurance should be private and secure

Driving data is sensitive information and should never fall into unauthorized hands. The transfer of this data should be secure and encrypted end-to-end. This is one of the many reasons we build our own hardware. We also don’t share or sell our users’ private information, which you can learn more about in our Privacy Principles.

 4. Connected car insurance should be affordable and accessible

Drivers shouldn’t have to purchase a brand new phone or car. It shouldn’t cost drivers extra to demonstrate their safe driving habits—insurance companies should provide an easily affordable way for drivers to do this.

 5. Connected car insurance should be like the apps we use today: modern and beautiful

We all use technology products from Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter that delight us and make our lives better every day. The auto insurance experience should meet those same standards.

Insurance is at a turning point, with so much room for innovation and improvement. These five principles should guide anyone working in this industry. We have our own plans, of course, and can’t wait to show you what’s around the corner.


Our Privacy Principles

The products we make require that we collect certain information from our users. We recognize the trust you place in us and don’t take it for granted.

We’ve always had a legal privacy policy that protects our users’ data, but because driving is such an important and personal part of people’s lives, we wanted to spell out our stance on privacy in plain English. Here are our four privacy principles:

our-privacy-principles-icon1Security is at our core.

We use industry-leading security practices like bank-level (128-bit AES) encryption on all data transmitted from the car adapter to your phone and up to the cloud so your information can’t be accessed maliciously. Ensuring your data is secure is one of the reasons we build our own hardware.

our-privacy-principles-icon2Your data is yours. Our job is to take care of it.

The data created when you drive is securely hosted on our servers and is yours to explore, download, and use however you like. We provide many ways for you to access your data, like our web dashboard and developer API. You can also stop using Automatic and ask us to permanently delete your data from our servers at any time.

our-privacy-principles-icon3You choose who else has access to your data.

You can grant access to your data to third party apps and services, like IFTTT or Nest. A simple dialog lets you know which data they’re requesting access to, and lets you decide whether to share it. We will never sell or share your personally identifiable information, like name, where you drive, or VIN. In the rare case of a request by law enforcement or government, we will pursue every avenue available to inform you and protect your data.

our-privacy-principles-icon4We anonymize data to create interesting insights.

We use aggregated, anonymized data to do research on driving patterns and vehicle performance, which we share on our blog. We may also create and sell industry reports, e.g. the most common engine problems for different car brands. These reports are based on aggregated and anonymized data—they will never contain any of your personally identifying information.

A data map only Bay Bridge drivers will appreciate

Hey Bay Bridge drivers, we were doing some digging through anonymized Automatic driving data and saw this nifty pattern.

Drivers speed towards the Bay Bridge toll booth and metering lights and then brake really hard once they get there. Then, they brake hard again once the lanes merge onto the bridge. We all do it, but it makes us wonder if it saves any time at all.

Hard accelerations@2xHard brakes@2x


Our Favorite Things of the Internet – Gift Guide

The “Internet of Things,” otherwise known as all the doodads that you can now control via the web, has exploded in recent years. Once upon a time, you walked in your front door and had to wait 30 minutes while your furnace warmed up. Now your smart thermostat knows when you get home and has the house nice and toasty for you. And who would have thought five years ago you could wear a bracelet that would keep tabs on your body and let you know if you’re getting enough exercise? 

This holiday season, it seems like everyone is hoping for these connected devices to be left under their tree. Here at Automatic, we’re obviously nuts about the possibilities these devices have to make our lives easier, safer, and more productive. Being early adopters ourselves, we’ve polled our team and put together a list of things that we absolutely can’t live without. Herewith, our Top Internet of Things gifts, sure to delight anyone on your gift list.

  Nest Thermostat with Airwave

Nest Learning Thermostat

The granddaddy of the connected device trend, these sleek, smart thermostats learn how you like your house heated (or cooled) and adjust your settings automatically to maximize your comfort and minimize your utility bill. We love nothing more than coming home to a warm house on a cold winter day. Well, as cold as it gets in San Francisco, at least.


Chamberlain MyQ

If you’re like us, you can never remember if you closed the garage door or left the lights on. Chamberlin MyQ is here to ease your forgetful mind. Check to see if your garage door is closed (and get notified if it opens) right from your smartphone. Better yet, you can close your garage door right from your phone without driving all the way back home. Rest easy knowing that your castle is safe.


Jawbone UP 

You’ve probably noticed people wearing slick-looking, hard rubber bracelets around. Not only is the Jawbone UP a powerful fitness tracker, but it’s also a wearable accessory that you won’t look silly wearing. Set goals, track results, improve your health, and look good doing it. Jawbone UP will also connect with many other services, including your Automatic or Nest, to help further your fitness goals. We find that with these simple interventions, we begin to feel healthier and happier within a few days.


August Smart Lock

Never fumble for your keys again with August’s Bluetooth-enabled smart lock. It knows when you’re arriving home and unlocks the door for you. You can also make sure that the door is locked or give others temporary access (like your dog walker) for a few hours a day, all from your smartphone. Don’t leave houseguests waiting on your doorstep while you deal with traffic or drop your groceries while you search for keys ever again.



SmartThings is a connected device hub for your home. It lets you do simple things, like monitoring your home for unexpected movement or helping you find your keys; to very complicated things, like knowing whether your pet needs food or setting mood music and lighting when you arrive home. Being a little geeky ourselves, we’ve found myriad ways to make this work for our homes. The customizability of SmartThings makes it best for the slightly more advanced user, but the array of options are worth it.


And last, but certainly not least…



Obviously we think this is the bee’s knees. With Automatic, your cars are now connected to the web. Check engine light comes on? Automatic will tell you what’s going on and help you find someone to fix it. Forget where you parked? Automatic’s got that covered too. With countless safety features, including crash alerts that contact emergency services in an accident, Automatic helps you drive safer and smarter. Automatic will even let your Nest know when you’re heading home so that the house will be ready for you when you arrive.


Introducing License+ for Parents and Teen Drivers

At Automatic, we believe driving smarter saves you time and money, and helps keep you safe. This has been especially true for newly licensed drivers. We also know the first six months after getting a license are the most difficult and risky of our driving lives. Several products on the market attempt to make driving safer for teens with real-time monitoring. But in our research, we found monitoring doesn’t quite work for parents who are already overwhelmed with too much data. And it doesn’t work for teens who do not like being spied on, but do want help being better drivers.

So today, we’re excited to announce License+, a free program that empowers new teen drivers to build good driving behaviors with the support of a coach, built right into the Automatic app for iPhone and Android.

To develop License+, we spoke with many parents and teens to better understand how we might make learning to drive a better, safer, and more effective experience. Our unique approach surfaced five core principles that helped us create an engaging program for both parent and teen.

The 5 Core Principles of License+

1. Teens need freedom to learn good driving habits on their own, but still benefit from the support of an experienced driver.

Drivers who sign up for License+ choose a trusted coach for 100 hours of independent driving, which can be completed in about six months. During that time, the coach can review progress with the driver and identify skills to focus on next.

Drive Score and License Plus progress in the Automatic iPhone app

2. There’s a difference between licensed drivers and good drivers.

The teens we spoke to wanted the chance to earn driving privileges as they get better. License+ rewards time spent practicing good driving skills with a set of collectible badges, so when you drive 10 miles safely at night with your coach, or go 50 miles with no hard brakes, you’ll have a badge to show for it. Badges also help parents see which driving skills their teen has mastered.

License Plus Badges

3. Teens can be good drivers, and want a way to prove it to parents and friends.

When we asked stay-at-home dad Jose how he reacts when his son makes a driving mistake, he told us, “I let him correct himself first to see if he notices what he did wrong.” With License+, Jose’s son can do just that. Automatic scores driving throughout License+ based on driving events like hard brakes and fast accelerations. That information is accessible to both the coach and new driver, but teens can share specific trips when they want to show off. And at the end of the 100 hours, the driver earns a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on their final drive score. The medal is a certification of good driving and stays with them as they use Automatic beyond License+.


4. Open communication is more effective at improving driver safety than the threat of consequences.

A parent in California named Amanda told us, “Having a conversation is more important than punishment.” We agree. License+ was built to foster conversation and build trust between parents and teens. The coach’s web dashboard provides just the right amount of information so they can stay up-to-date without being overwhelmed, and the driver doesn’t feel spied on. A weekly activity summary is emailed to both driver and coach so they can review the driver’s progress together.

5. Parents want to keep their teens safe enough to succeed on their own.

Rachel, a mom in North Carolina, said, “I don’t want to be controlling. I want to see my son accomplish on his own.” Not only will License+ help him learn to be safe on his own, it also comes with tools to keep him safe beyond License+. Automatic remembers where you parked and helps decode the check engine light. For Android users, the Do Not Disturb feature automatically silences your phone while driving to prevent distractions. And in the event of a collision, one of our Crash Alert live agents will respond immediately, contact emergency services and parents, and stay on the line with the driver until help arrives. All these Automatic services are included with License+ for free.

Get help in a crash, decode the check engine light, and remember where you parked

License+ helps parents create a path to responsible driving, and it helps teens master good driving habits while earning the independence they yearn for. Becoming a good driver can be a great experience, one where teens seek advice from parents, brag about progress, and practice responsible decision-making. With License+, safe driving is something teens can be proud of.

Order Automatic now.

Download the free app from the App Store or Google Play Store, or check out our Community.


We Need a Better Approach to New Driver Safety

Most Americans view getting a driver’s license as a rite of passage and synonymous with freedom—freedom to be with friends, to go where you want. It also gives their parents a break from the free shuttle service they’ve been running for years.

Unfortunately, that freedom comes with risk. Newly licensed drivers experience the highest crash rates in the first six months after getting their license (the top line in the graph below). Teens drive safer when the parent is in the car due to the Hawthorne effect because they know they’re being observed. When teens drive alone, however, that effect disappears. Even after a period of supervised driving with a learner’s permit, newly licensed teens are much more likely to get into an accident once they start driving alone.

The good news is that safety improves dramatically after the first six months of independent driving. Practice works, so getting through those months safely is the real challenge. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem: In order for teens to learn to drive safely they need to practice driving alone, where an accident is most likely to occur. So how can we ensure that teens are safer when they start driving solo?

There are a number of remote surveillance products on the market that try to substitute in-person supervision with real-time video monitoring, “geo-fencing,” and location tracking. We believe these solutions are well-intentioned, but fundamentally flawed. These devices ignore the needs of the teens doing the actual driving. In other areas of their online lives, young adults are told to be protective of their privacy, but these products disregard that entirely. The freedom of a driver’s license now comes with the cost of being spied on, with nothing in return. With these conditions, who wouldn’t try to break the rules or throw the device out the window the first chance they get?

These solutions also don’t consider parents who might want to respect their teens’ privacy, or who simply don’t feel the need to follow their every move. Our culture increasingly equates surveillance with good parenting, so parents feel a pressure to keep tabs on their teens. But in our research, parents get overwhelmed by the flood of data they’re presented with, while the information they do manage to absorb often lacks context and can cause needless worry.

Not only does resorting to surveillance create a poor user experience, it doesn’t give the new driver room to build safe driving skills on their own. Preserving a close relationship with a teen is already challenging for parents, and for many surveillance is too big of a breach of that precious trust. None of the products currently on the market address this concern.

For both today’s teen driver and parent, freedom ain’t what it used to be.

A Different Approach

As we reflect on Teen Driver Safety Week we ask, how could a connected car company make those first six months of driving the best and safest they can be for both parents and teens? It’s challenging to consider their competing needs, but by doing so we can reframe this life experience in a positive light. Instead of being constantly monitored, what if new drivers could show off specific driving skills? What if parents had a non-intrusive way to coach their teens and build their confidence? How might we catch new drivers doing something good?

Questions like these inspire us to shift focus from the threat of consequences to open communication and trust, something parents and teens both want. We want teens to master good driving habits and experience the personal freedom they yearn for, while parents can create a path to responsible adulthood and worry less. An approach that successfully takes everyone’s needs into account would be a huge win for parent-teen relationships.

Most importantly, would this approach lead to safer driving and fewer accidents? We believe the answer is yes. If we make learning to drive a desirable experience for teens—one where they seek advice from parents, brag about good driving achievements, and practice responsible decision-making—teens won’t have to be cajoled into safer driving. Safe driving will be something they can be proud of.


Why we built the Link

When we founded Automatic, it wasn’t immediately obvious that we should build our own hardware. Adapters that plug into your car’s diagnostic port had been around for a long time, and we thought we might build an app that works with one of them.

We investigated the options and did thorough tear-downs of every OBD adapter we could find, but quickly realized that none were powerful, flexible, or secure enough to support the experiences we wanted to create for our users. Though it wouldn’t be easy, we decided to commit our small team to building our own hardware – with all the necessary R&D, design, and manufacturing costs that would entail. We needed a product that was worlds better than anything else out there.

link sketches

Early design explorations of the Link. We pursued dozens of variations before settling on the final form.

Our vision is of a world where your car is as connected as your phone, where it’s as easy to create a new automotive experience as it is to create a mobile app. Since our hardware would be the foundation of this connected car platform, it had to support all of the use cases we had in mind. Existing adapters just didn’t measure up, and often made huge sacrifices on manufacturing quality.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he quoted the computer programming pioneer Alan Kay: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” For us, it’s because we’re so serious about great software experiences that we had to make our own hardware. With this in mind, we began work on a product that could support our vision. And thus, the Link was born.


 Me (left) and our industrial designer (right) reviewing early 3D prototypes of the Link.

So called because of its role linking your car and phone together, the Link is truly a unique piece of hardware. Here are some of the features we’re most proud of.

Upgradable firmware

The software that runs on the Link can be updated automatically for free, over the air. This means that over time, we can push updates to improve its performance and even add new features, like we did with the integration with Ford vehicles to detect when a driver presses the SYNC steering wheel button.

Securely encrypted

The data in your car’s onboard computer is sensitive, which is why we protect transmissions to and from the Link with bank-level encryption much more powerful than standard Bluetooth encryption. Almost none of the OBD adapters on the market do this, leaving them open to malicious attacks.

Compact and beautiful

We took great care to design a product you’d be proud to have in your car. The precision enclosure is made of polished high-quality polymers and the hexagonal Automatic logo is stamped from pure aluminum.

No subscription fees

The Link uses Bluetooth wireless to piggyback on your phone’s data service, which saves us from having to build a cellular connection into the Link and charging a subscription fee. On iPhone, the Link uses the latest Bluetooth 4.0 wireless standard to send data even when the Automatic app isn’t open, all with minimal impact on your phone’s battery. On Android, the Link switches seamlessly to classic Bluetooth, which is more widespread on that platform.

Crash detection

One of our most important features, Crash Alert, wouldn’t have been possible without the Link’s unique accelerometer, which measures sudden decelerations a thousand times per second. The Link uses a sophisticated signal processing algorithm to analyze this data to detect a serious crash so Automatic can call for help.

Built-in speaker

Finally, the Link is the only OBD adapter with audio capabilities, which is essential for giving you real-time feedback about your driving habits and alerting you that help is on the way in the event of a crash. This speaker could find other uses in the future as well.

I could go on about what else makes the Link special, from the custom manufacturing process and tooling to the ethical labor practices at our factory, but I’ll save it for another post. We’re very proud of the Link and believe it’s a terrific foundation for the automotive experiences we’re creating. We can’t wait to show you what’s next.

Drive on!

Automatic - Siri through Ford SYNC

Introducing Siri through SYNC, powered by Automatic

Last week we announced our partnership with Ford to create connected car experiences that enable drivers to be smarter and safer behind the wheel. This week we’re proud to debut the first feature we’ve created through this partnership: Siri through SYNC.

Siri through SYNC enables you to supercharge the “Push to Talk” button on the steering wheel in your supported SYNC-equipped vehicle. It brings the power of Siri to your fingertips, so you can get directions, place phone calls, set a reminder, and more—all without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel.

Safety first

At Automatic, we always think about how best to enhance the experience of driving without forgoing what matters most: the safety of you and your passengers. As such, Siri through SYNC is entirely eyes and hands free. This enables you to safely use Siri from your steering wheel without losing focus on the road.

The possibilities become endless with IFTTT

While Siri understands an incredible breadth of commands, there will always be that one thing that you wish you could ask that isn’t yet possible. Whether it’s turning up the heat in your house when you’re on the way home, Slacking your teammates that you’re stuck in traffic, or recording an interesting location as you’re driving by, Siri will never be able to do quite everything under the sun.

To account for this, you can connect the “Push to Talk” button in your steering wheel to If This Then That (or IFTTT, for short) as an alternative to Siri through SYNC. This enables you to trigger any of the countless actions available on IFTTT from the convenience of your steering wheel while you drive—including all of the examples above. While there’s already some great recipes to start, we can’t wait to see what else you’ll come up with down the road.

Get it today

Siri through SYNC is available today as an update to the Automatic iPhone app (Android’s next!). We’re really excited to bring you this feature, which only could have been created through our unique partnership with Ford. This is just the beginning of what’s to come. There’s never been a better time to drive.


Ford and Automatic team up to create better connected car experiences

At Automatic, we want to use the power of connectivity and smartphones to enable every driver to be smarter and safer when they get behind the wheel. We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with Ford to do just that for Ford and Lincoln drivers.

Ford SYNC already delivers a number of compelling features like hands-free phone calls and navigation. We’re now working with Ford to enhance the existing SYNC system to deliver unique experiences built on the Automatic platform.

The first of several features available to drivers who use Automatic in supported Ford SYNC-equipped vehicles will make Apple’s Siri personal assistant application accessible on iPhone through the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. This means drivers will not have to reach for their iPhone while operating their vehicle, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

In addition, Automatic will provide greater convenience to Ford and Lincoln drivers by enabling access to the popular If This Then That, or IFTTT service, which automates actions using the Internet. This will allow them to use the push-to-talk button to trigger an IFTTT recipe from among hundreds in the web service library. IFTTT recipes range from automatically sending a message to a loved one to remotely operating home appliances from your car — enabling you to connect your car to family, friends and home. You can even create your own IFTTT recipes, so get creative!

In the coming months, Automatic and Ford will continue to work together to launch additional connected car features. The initial feature set will be available in our app in the App Store next week – sign up here to be notified when it launches. For now, the new features are supported on iOS 8 only.

This collaboration started as a conversation with Ford’s R&D team that eventually expanded to their senior management team. We’ve now partnered to jointly develop amazing connected car experiences. As a startup, we’re generally skeptical about working with large companies to build and ship something tangible at startup speed (if they’re a Fortune 10 company, the skepticism goes up dramatically!). But, over the last few months, we’ve been amazed at how fast the team at Ford can move. We look forward to working with Ford on our shared desire to invent and deliver new experiences that enable every driver to be smarter and safer.