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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

Explore your trips and driving data

Introducing the Automatic Web Dashboard

We’re excited to announce the Automatic Web Dashboard, an all new place for you to explore the data behind the drives you take with Automatic. The Dashboard lets you dig deeper and spot trends so you can learn more about your driving habits. Whether you’re already an Automatic user or not,  try it out yourself.

Automatic Web Dashboard

How it works

On the Dashboard, you can access all your trips and see them in a list, map, and graph simultaneously. Filter and visualize your trips in ways that are interesting to you, say, by how much the fuel costs, how long they are, or by which cars you drive. For example, you can easily view just the trips where you drive during your commute hours during the summer and learn how much time and money you’re spending on your way to work. Use it to find the cheapest route or a time to leave home that gives you the shortest commute time.

Web Dashboard Filters

If you’d like to play with the data on your own, you can even export your trips as a .CSV file, for expense reporting or your own analysis.

Born from customer feedback

The Dashboard is our answer to the great comments and suggestions we regularly review in our customer community. Many of you have been wanting to see more than what’s currently in our mobile app and to view trips on the web. We combined those two ideas to create the Dashboard and offer a bigger canvas that builds on the information we already collect.

An entirely new destination

Our Dashboard is more than just a new feature, it’s a new part of the Automatic family that makes it even more compelling to use long term. We think it will serve as a powerful place to visit to gain insights about your driving and how your behavior may change over time.

Automatic Product Family

The Dashboard is something we intend to build on and evolve, and we’ll be listening intently to you all to see how we can improve it.

Try it out

Starting today, you can view your Automatic Dashboard by logging in to dashboard.automatic.com with the email and password you use in the app. For those that don’t yet have an Automatic account, we’ve also provided a demo with sample data so you can give it a try as well.

We can’t wait to to see how everyone uses the Dashboard. Try it out and share your feedback with us in our customer community.

 

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Automatic 1.1 for Android launches with IFTTT integration and adjustable speed feedback

We’re working hard on the Automatic Android app and are excited to announce version 1.1, which includes two highly-requested features:

  • IFTTT integration
  • Adjustable speed feedback

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that,” is a simple service that lets you create powerful connections between triggers and actions on the internet, like automatically turning your house lights on when you park by your house, or emailing your mechanic if your check engine light comes on. Read more about IFTTT.

A great example of the power of IFTTT and Automatic is the simple case of grocery shopping.  We’ve all had the experience of getting home from a trip to the store, only to find out that our spouse or roommate needed something, but we didn’t know.  With IFTTT and Automatic, you can prevent this by setting up a trigger which will send out a text whenever you park your car near, for example, your favorite grocery store.  This gives them all the time they need to send you a request for that last-minute item.  Try it out yourself:

IFTTT Recipe: I'm at the grocery store, need anything? connects automatic to android-sms

Another good example is carpooling.  Let’s say you typically pick up your spouse, kids, or friends every day on your way home from work, but despite your best efforts, you occasionally end up running late, leaving your carpool passengers scratching their heads, not knowing when you’ll arrive. It’s cumbersome to have to pull out your phone to email everyone in your carpool letting them know you’ll be late, but with IFTTT and Automatic, you can simply set up a trigger which will automatically email them whenever you leave work.  This way they’ll always know exactly when you’re on your way!  Give it a try:

IFTTT Recipe: Let my carpool know when I leave work connects automatic to gmail

These IFTTT recipes and many more, are listed on our IFTTT Channel. Check them out!

Adjustable Speed Feedback

One of the most popular requests from our customer community was to let users adjust the speed at which Automatic warns you that you’re driving too fast. Some folks wanted to avoid speeding tickets in states with much higher speed limits, while others felt the optimum speed for their car is different than the pre-determined 70 MPH threshold.

Keep in mind that for now your drive score is still impacted by how much time you spend over 70 MPH, regardless of your custom speed alert threshold. We’re already working on an update to address this issue, so stay tuned. To get to the feature, click the Profile screen, then Audio Settings -> Speed Feedback -> Speed Threshold.  Note that this feature requires updated firmware.

We’re looking forward to delivering more features for Android users in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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Automatic for iPhone 2.1 with Connection Tone

We’ve been busy this summer building some really cool features. Until those are done, here’s a little update that helps you know when Automatic’s working, when it isn’t, and how to fix it.

Version 2.1 for iPhone introduces a new audio tone that plays at the start of each trip to let you know Automatic is connected and working properly.

If Automatic can’t connect within the first minute of your drive, it’ll play a different “disconnection” tone to let you know something’s wrong.

If this happens, in most cases simply launching the Automatic app will fix the problem. Otherwise, the new Connection Troubleshooting Guide in the app Settings → Connection screen will tell you what to do.

If you’d rather not hear these tones, you can disable them in Settings. You might want to do this to prevent the disconnected tone from playing when someone who doesn’t use Automatic drives your car.

We’ve been testing this feature with users for a few weeks and they really appreciate the quick reminder that everything is working properly at the start of a trip. We hope you do too.

NOTE: This feature requires the latest firmware (version 0.9.13), which will be updated while you drive. You will not see this feature in the app until firmware automatically updates. Learn more about firmware updates.

 

Join us and leave comments on this post in the Automatic Community.

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Car, Meet Home.

Automatic helps you drive smarter and safer. The Nest Learning Thermostat does the same for your home. Thanks to If This Then That (IFTTT), your car and home can now talk to each other and help you live smarter.

What can you do when your car can talk to your home?

There are dozens of ways you can connect your car and home — here a few to get you started. IFTTT Recipe: When I leave home, turn down my thermostat connects automatic to nest-thermostat

Automatic can automatically let your Nest thermostat know when you’ve left the house and turned on your car. Nest can then turn down your thermostat so not one cycle is wasted on an empty home. IFTTT Recipe: When I arrive home and turn off my car, turn my Nest thermostat up connects automatic to nest-thermostat


IFTTT Recipe: When I get home, run my HVAC fan for 15 minutes. connects automatic to nest-thermostat
IFTTT Recipe: When I leave work, turn my thermostat up connects automatic to nest-thermostat

When you’re on your way home from work after a long tiring day, how nice would it be to come back to a house at the perfect temperature? These recipes allow you to do just that when Automatic detects you’ve left work or when you park near your home. We would love to hear from you on how you want to connect your car and home – chat us on Twitter or Facebook and create your own IFTTT recipes! You can also read our IFTTT blog post for more ways you can connect your car to family, friends and home with dozens of other apps and services, like Evernote, Google Spreadsheets, or SMS text message. Drive on!

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Automatic 2.0 redesigned with low-fuel warnings, adjustable speed feedback

This is the biggest update to Automatic for iPhone since our launch last year, featuring an all new design, low-fuel warnings, and adjustable speed feedback.

Redesigned from the ground up

At Automatic, we focus on creating products that help people drive safer and smarter. The user experience always comes first, and a big part of that is the design of the user interface. The new UI in Automatic 2.0 is lighter, more modern, and gives us the flexibility to design new features we couldn’t otherwise. You’ll see small touches throughout the app that we hope will elevate the experience every time you use it.

Fuel level and low-fuel warnings

One of the many benefits of building our own hardware is that we can extend it with new capabilities over time. Starting today, users with supported cars will see their fuel level right in the iPhone app, along with an estimate of the miles left in the tank based on your driving habits.

Automatic will warn you with a push notification when you’re low on fuel. You can customize when you’re warned, say, at 1/4 of a tank, or at 50 miles to empty.

iOS 7 - Fuel Level
About half of the cars connected with Automatic don’t report their fuel level through the diagnostic port. Unfortunately, these cars don’t support this feature. There isn’t a clear pattern for which cars report their fuel level and which don’t, so please check to see if yours is supported.

In general, we focus on building features that all cars support, but felt this one was too important to ignore. We’re sorry if you’re one of the unlucky ones, but don’t worry, we’re working on lots of other cool stuff that everyone will be able to use.

Adjustable speed feedback

Our community is a great place for our customers to share their experiences with us and each other, and to tell us which features they’d like to see in Automatic. One of the most popular requests was to let users adjust the speed at which Automatic warns you that you’re driving too fast. Some folks wanted to avoid speeding tickets in states with much higher speed limits, while others felt the optimum speed for their car is different than the pre-determined 70 MPH threshold.

Not only is the threshold adjustable, we improved how you’re warned that you’re driving too fast. Now, you’ll only hear the chirp once when you cross the threshold. The chirp won’t repeat for the rest of the trip unless you dip below the threshold and cross it again.

Keep in mind that for now your drive score is still impacted by how much time you spend over 70 MPH, regardless of your custom speed threshold. We’re already working on an update to address this issue, so stay tuned.

We get a lot of inspiration for new features in our customer community, so drop us a line anytime to chat with members of our team and user community.

Drive on!

Download the latest from the App Store.

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Automatic for Android 1.0 launches to help you stay focused on the road and safe in a crash

We’re really excited to announce the 1.0 release of our Android app, which includes Crash Alert (beta), as well as an Android-exclusive “Do Not Disturb” feature that helps you stay focused on the road by silencing your phone when you drive.

Helping people drive safer is a big part of our mission. Crash Alert, now available for both iOS and Android, can detect serious crashes and notify local authorities with your location, even if you can’t. An Automatic agent will even stay on the line with you until help arrives and contact your loved ones to let them know what’s happened.

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Eyes On The Road

We all know we shouldn’t use our phones when we drive. It’s dangerous, and distracted driving causes over a million accidents every year. But when a message comes in, let’s be honest, it’s hard to resist.

Automatic on Android can take the temptation away by silencing incoming texts, notifications, and phone calls when you drive. It can even auto-reply to phone calls with a text message to let them know you’re driving.

Most importantly, you’re in control: Automatic doesn’t lock you out of the phone so you can always pick it up and see what you missed when it’s safe. And of course, you can disable the feature if you really want to.

Android Exclusive

Do Not Disturb is only available on Automatic for Android because of that platform’s special capabilities. We look forward to pushing what’s possible on Android to make driving safer.

You can download the Automatic Android app on Google Play now.

Drive On!

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Automatic and Jawbone team up to help you drive less and walk more

Most of us don’t get enough exercise, and driving as much as we do doesn’t help. In fact, nearly 80% of all drives are under two miles, short enough that every now and then you could walk instead. But how much closer to your fitness goals would this get you? To help you find out, Automatic and Jawbone have teamed up to give drivers insight into how their physical activity and driving patterns are connected.

The App

If you’ve got Automatic and a Jawbone UP band, your drives can now appear in the UP app along with your physical activity. Miss your target step count for the day? Maybe it was because you spent more time than usual in the car. Tap on a drive and see how many steps you could have logged if you’d walked instead.

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The Hardware

The Jawbone UP wristband helps you collect data about your physical activity, sleep, and wellness to learn about yourself. Automatic is a smart driving assistant that connects your car and phone wirelessly whenever you drive to provide feedback on your driving habits and car health.

The Integration

  • Automatic is automatic – Once UP & Automatic are connected, drive data is synced automatically with the Jawbone UP app.
  • Integrated travel – See your walking and driving in one place.
  • Share with friends – Automatic trip summaries can be shared with other Jawbone UP users.
  • Prevent road rage – Jawbone UP tracks your mood and diet. Compare this to the time spent in the car each day and routes traveled to see what makes you happiest.
  • iPhone and Android – The Automatic+Jawbone integration works on both iOS and Android

The Background

A prototype version of this app was built at the Clinton Foundation’s Code4Health Codeathon in Palm Springs, CA. A team of four built Walkoff, a connection between Automatic and Jawbone UP that displays how health and driving are connected. The judges, including Chelsea Clinton, awarded first place to this team.

The Automatic Jawbone UP app grew out of this codeathon project. View the winning team’s presentation.

“This is an exciting integration for us because it was developed at one of our Codeathon events in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Tumblr, and Ace Hotel,” said Travis Bogard, vice president of product management and strategy at Jawbone. “It demonstrates the ability of our app to easily connect and exchange information with a wide range of other apps and services that complement your UP experience. By integrating with Automatic, the UP community can better understand how the moments spent in the car might impact their health.”

Get the App

Jawbone UP users can add Automatic from the Jawbone App gallery. Don’t have an Automatic yet? Order online or at any U.S. Best Buy or Apple Store. Need a Jawbone UP? Compare Jawbone UP models.