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Automatic for Android is Here!

We’re so happy to announce the official launch of Automatic for Android, version 0.9, live in the Google Play Store! A big thank you to the Alpha and Beta testers who helped us do it.

Automatic for Android behaves exactly as you’d expect, automatically, in the background, whenever you drive. Ensuring that the app behaves this way was a big challenge, especially because of the peculiarities of using Bluetooth across the wide range of Android devices. We can even support many more Android devices than we originally expected. Basically, if you have an Android phone running OS 4.0 or above, with Bluetooth and GPS support, Automatic should work great.

This release supports almost all of the features described on the home page:

  • Trip timeline with distance, MPG, route map, and trip fuel costs.

  • Weekly drive score, distance, MPG, and daily insight graphs.

  • Automatic parking spot tracking.

  • Notifications and explanations of what that “Check Engine” light means.

  • Clearing the check engine light from your phone.

  • Support for multi-car and multi-user.

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Crash Alert
Because Crash Alert is highly sensitive, we decided to take a little more time to put it together as carefully as possible. We expect to be ready with it by late spring, or early summer at the latest. In the meantime, feel free to download the app and give it a spin!

For questions or feedback, join us in the Customer Community.

Drive On!

ifttt-launch

Automatic lets your car tweet, post to Facebook, and more: announcing the Automatic Channel on IFTTT

When we set out to create Automatic, it was because of the incredible potential we saw in connecting your car to the internet. Automatic uses that connection to track your trips, remember where you parked, tell you what’s wrong with your engine, and even call for help in a crash.

Today, we’re taking that connection to a whole new level: giving drivers the power to connect their cars to dozens of popular web services like Twitter, Facebook, and Dropbox. We’ve launched the Automatic Channel on IFTTT.

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 automatically letting your friends on Facebook know when you drive back home. Read more about IFTTT.

What can you do with Automatic and IFTTT?

The Automatic Channel on IFTTT exposes several very powerful triggers.  These include:

  • Ignition turned on
  • Ignition turned on in a specific area
  • Ignition turned off
  • Ignition turned off in a specific area
  • Check engine light turned on
  • Check engine light turned off
  • Trip completed

These triggers occur when you drive with Automatic. Telling IFTTT what you’d like to happen in response to these triggers is called a Recipe.

Here are a few Recipes we like:

IFTTT Recipe: Log all of my trips to a Google spreadsheet connects automatic to google-drive
IFTTT Recipe: Turn off my house lights when I leave home connects automatic to philips-hue
IFTTT Recipe: Text my significant other when I'm on my way home from work connects automatic to sms
IFTTT Recipe: Email my mechanic when the check engine light comes on connects automatic to gmail

Getting started with the Automatic Channel on IFTTT is easy – just click on any of the above Recipes and sign in with your Automatic account. You can also make your own Recipes for situations we haven’t thought of. We’d love to see what you come up with – don’t forget to share them with us.

As more channels are added to IFTTT, the things you can do with Automatic will grow too. Keep an eye on our IFTTT profile page where we’ll be featuring new and exciting Recipes as they become possible. Is it just us, or is the future here already!?

IFTTT  lets you connect your car to other internet-connected hardware devices:

IFTTT Recipe: When I get home, turn my house lights to party mode connects automatic to philips-hue

There are lots of creative things that you can do with the Automatic Channel on IFTTT with social media:

IFTTT Recipe: Call my spouse immediately if I park in front of a Nevada brothel connects automatic to phone-call

We can’t wait to see the Recipes you all come up with.

Drive on!

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The Hidden Costs of Aggressive Driving

One of the core concepts behind Automatic is that small changes to your driving habits can have a huge impact on fuel efficiency. A few weeks ago, we analyzed our users’ highway driving data and discovered that slowing down just a little could save hundreds on gas per year.

This week we follow up with another aggressive driving habit Automatic helps you with – hard accelerations: what they are and why they hurt your fuel efficiency.

What’s a hard acceleration?

At Automatic, we consider an acceleration “hard” if you speed up 7 MPH or more in one second, equivalent to going from 0 to 60 MPH in about 9 seconds. In most cars, you have to floor the gas pedal to do this.

Your car usually tries to maintain the most efficient ratio of air and fuel in the engine to deliver high fuel economy. But if you hit pedal to the metal, even efficient cars interpret that as a demand for maximum power. Your car chucks that efficient air-fuel ratio out the window and dumps fuel into the engine. Your engine RPM spikes and you feel a surge of power– but you end up burning much more gas than you’d need to reach the same speed more gradually.

acceleration graphs.001

Why does it matter?

How hard you accelerate is especially important for city driving. Unlike highway driving, which is usually pretty steady, city driving requires frequent speeding up and slowing down.

You can see this in a plot of speed over time for one of my recent morning commutes through San Francisco. I traveled nearly half the total distance accelerating. For this kind of driving, accelerating gently has a huge impact on fuel economy.

acceleration graphs.002

By comparison, here’s the plot of trip I took from the suburbs, over the freeway, back to San Francisco.

acceleration graphs.003

On that trip, 90% of the distance was covered on the highway, so my choice of highway speed had the largest impact on fuel efficiency.

So how bad is hard accelerating?

The image below shows how the MPGs vary for a BMW 328i at different speeds and accelerations. Red areas are extremely inefficient.

acceleration graphs.004

Based on aggregate fuel consumption data from dozens of 2009-2013 BMW 328is.

In the last post we explored the effect of speed on fuel efficiency (spoiler: driving over 70 MPH is really inefficient). But no matter your speed, accelerating hard wastes a lot of gas.

Deciding exactly how fast to accelerate is a matter of personal choice, but it’s amazing how inefficient it is to slam on the gas. So if you want to save some money, listen when Automatic chirps and lighten up on the pedal!

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Every Automatic on the road just became an iBeacon

We’re happy to announce that we recently deployed an over-the-air firmware update to all our users, enabling Apple’s new iBeacon technology in Automatic.

What is iBeacon?

iBeacon is Apple’s Bluetooth Low Energy wireless standard that allows apps on your iPhone to recognize that you’re near a special wireless transmitter, called a beacon. The beacon and app can exchange information even when the phone is locked. Last week’s firmware update turned Automatic into a beacon, making Automatic the largest iBeacon deployment in the world!

What does this mean for Automatic users?

In the short term, iBeacon improves the connection between your iPhone and Automatic at the start of a drive, helping to make trip capture even more reliable.

Beyond that, we’re building a system for our users to securely identify themselves and their cars to the various automotive service providers they encounter.

Say you’re leaving a parking garage and instead of stopping to pay an attendant with your credit card, Automatic wirelessly signals the gate that you’re there using iBeacon, deducts the necessary funds from a credit card linked to your Automatic account, and opens the gate. The same system could work for toll booths, repair shops, parking meters, car washes, gas stations, and so on.

ibeaconA lot of people are talking about iBeacon as a way for stores to push special offers to your iPhone as you walk in. Our implementation is nothing like this since Automatic users own both the beacon (the Automatic Link) and the app.

Finally, iBeacon on Automatic is currently iOS-only, but Android users rest assured. Whatever we build with iBeacon we promise to build for you too, using different technology.

Get in touch about partnering with Automatic at parternships@automatic.com.

Desert Highway

The Cost of Speeding: Save a Little Time, Spend a Lot of Money

One of our engineers is a guy named Ted, who spends a lot of time in the wilderness. He drives quite a bit, mostly on weekends to places like Yosemite National Park or Big Sur. He cares about the environment, especially since he spends so much time there, so he wants to be careful with his gas consumption. He also wants to save money. There’s just one thing: Ted drives fast.

At Automatic, we know staying under 70 MPH on the freeway can save gas and money, so we had Ted do the math to find out just how much. What he found out surprised even us. It turns out slowing down on the freeway just a little bit would save Ted over $550 in gas every year! Let’s dig in and see how.

Every car has an EPA-rated fuel efficiency. Ted’s 2011 Subaru Outback is rated at 29 MPG on the highway, but as you can see in the graph below the actual efficiency depends a lot on how fast he drives.

mpg-vs-speed-subaruAggregated data from over 2000 hours of driving across dozens of 2009-2013 Subaru Outbacks.

 

In the Outback, fuel efficiency peaks at around 50 MPH then drops quickly. Some cars are built to be more efficient than others – at lower or at higher speeds or both – but all cars follow this same basic pattern.

Ted’s average speed on the highway is 70 MPH, among the fastest Outback drivers using Automatic. He’s clearly burning more fuel at that speed than he could be, so he wanted to know whether slowing down would be worth the money saved on gas.

To answer this, he compared the gas cost and travel times of the fastest and slowest Outback drivers to the drivers who average 65 MPH on the highway. Ted’s in the fastest group.

gas-cost-vs-timeData from the 1000 highway miles Ted drove last month and normalized data from other Outback drivers. The fastest group spends $161 on gas and 14.4 hours driving; the median group spends $114 on gas and 15.4 hours driving; the slowest group spends $101 on gas and 18.1 hours driving. (Assumes $3.60/gal)

 

Driving an average of 5 MPH faster than the 65 MPH group, Ted saves only 4 minutes for every hour on the road but spends an extra $46 on gas every month.

A note about comparing time spent and money saved
At first, it may seem strange to compare monthly fuel savings to changes in travel time per hour of driving, but this is exactly the choice drivers have to make. Unlike the money saved on gas, which adds up over time, Ted can’t add up the few minutes he saves on every trip and use them later.

What about other kinds of cars? Whether you drive a hybrid like the Toyota Prius, a conventional Honda Civic, or a even a BMW 3 Series, which is engineered for better fuel economy at higher speeds, all cars follow the general pattern of decreasing efficiency above 70 MPH.

mpg-vs-speed-allAggregated data from over 8000 hours of driving for 2009-2012 model years of each car.

As you might expect, the Prius hybrid is the most efficient overall. The curve’s strange shape is because of its Hybrid Synergy Drive, which balances load between the gasoline engine and electric motor at different speeds. The Civic’s bump in efficiency at 70MPH is likely due to the combination of an overdrive gear and its VTEC system, which can improve fuel efficiency at high RPMs.

Despite these differences among cars, one point remains true: driving over 70 MPH will cost a lot of gas, but doesn’t save you all that much time. I asked Ted, and he’s not ready to join the slowest drivers on the road, but will start setting his cruise control to 65 MPH on the highway from now on. How about you?

Revised Feb 6, 2014: Corrected EPA rated fuel efficiency for Ted’s car from 24 MPG to 29 MPG and indicated the price of gas used in the analysis ($3.60/gal).

Android App and Beta Program Update

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Thanks to everyone who has signed up for our Android Beta Test Program! We’re getting very close to our beta release and are on track to have it ready in time for Christmas. Please keep an eye on the Google Group for updates.

If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for our Beta Program, not to worry. We’ll accept more Beta signups after the holidays, most likely around the second week of January. You can currently request to join and we’ll approve requests in the new year. If you have a pre-order with us, let our Customer Success team know you’re in the Beta Program once you’re approved by emailing support@automatic.com.

Waiting for the 1.0 release? Our plan is to have the Android app ready for a full release in early 2014. Keep an eye on this space for more news on the Android app after the Beta Program has gotten underway. All pre-orders placed on our site for Android will ship when the 1.0 app is ready. As always, we never charge until we’re ready to ship your device.

Stay in Touch

Join us in the customer community to ask questions and share feedback with us and each other.

bitcoin

Buy Automatic with Bitcoin

At Automatic, opinions on Bitcoin range from “it’s going to change the world” to “it’s a bubble waiting to collapse”. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but in the meantime it’s frustrating that I can’t use my Bitcoin to buy great products that are also available in major traditional retailers. We decided to change that. You can now purchase Automatic using Bitcoin. We’re pretty sure this makes us the first product sold in Apple Stores that you can also buy with Bitcoin!

We like Bitcoin because it’s easy for customers to use. There’s no need to collect billing info or deal with the intricacies of credit card processing. We use a simple payment service called Coinbase to integrate Bitcoin into our existing ordering process.

For now, accepting Bitcoin is an experiment. If Bitcoin becomes a popular payment method, we’ll continue to support it and eventually integrate it into our main order page.

How does it work?

To buy Automatic using Bitcoin, visit our special Bitcoin ordering page. Once you select your phone platform and car, click continue to see a box with the price in Bitcoin based on the current exchange rate, the Bitcoin address to send it to, and a QR code.

pay-with-bitcoin-screenshot

After making the transaction using the Bitcoin client of your choice, click “Confirm Payment”. Coinbase will listen for your payment for a few seconds and update the screen when payment is confirmed. We’ll ship your Automatic within a few hours.

If you have Bitcoin in a Coinbase account, you can pay directly without adding a transaction to the Bitcoin blockchain.

Use the Coin

So, if you’ve got some coin burning a hole in your pocket, buy Automatic with Bitcoin. It makes a great holiday gift. Of course, we still accept credit card, Paypal and Amazon Payments as well.

best-buy

Automatic is Now in Best Buy!

Still shopping for the holidays? You’re in luck: We’re delighted to announce you can now find Automatic at Best Buy! You can buy it in almost 700 Best Buy stores nationwide too. Please make sure Automatic is available at your local Best Buy. You won’t find Automatic in the auto accessories department – we’re in the new technology section, where we’re proud to be near such innovative products as Nest, Square, and Fitbit.

Picking it up at a Best Buy near you means you’ll be able to get on the road with Automatic faster than ever. If you can’t make it home, we’d love to see your unboxing Instagrams and parking lot Vines – don’t forget to @automatic us! But if you’re saving your Automatic for a gift we don’t mind waiting.

As always, Automatic retails for $99.95. The app and service are free.

All About Automatic

We just released version 1.2 of the app and we’d love for you to learn more about it.

If you’re new to Automatic, welcome! Automatic is an iPhone app that pairs with a piece of intelligent hardware called the Automatic Link that plugs into the OBD-II port of your car. The Link connects your phone to your car’s onboard computer while you drive. All cars manufactured for sale in the U.S. since 1996 have an OBD-II port and most are compatible with Automatic.

Automatic is really an auto assistant: Automatic helps you adjust your driving habits to save gas and remembers where you parked. It’s also a car service app that helps you decode and clear your car’s “check engine” light. Automatic can also detect many kinds of serious crashes, call for help, and alert loved ones, without an expensive subscription fee.

If you have any questions or would like to keep in touch, join us in the customer community to ask questions and share feedback with us and our crew of amazing users.

We’re Hiring

The Automatic team is growing, and we’re looking for hardware, server, iOS, and Android engineers, but we always want to meet interesting, smart people who want to help make Automatic better in new and exciting ways. We’d love for you to join us.

Drive on!

1.2-feature

Automatic 1.2: Score details, custom location names, and much more

Today we published a juicy update to the Automatic iPhone app, with features and improvements inspired by the amazing feedback from our users in the customer community and elsewhere. The App Store release notes outline the changes, but in this blog post we’ll dig in a little deeper.

You’ll find improvements in three areas:

Score Details

We wanted to give folks a better sense of what their weekly drive score means and how it compares to others’. Now, just tap the score button and see a day-by-day graph of your score along with the total number of hard brakes, rapid accelerations, and time spent over 70 MPH. Switch weeks while score details are visible by tapping the next/prev buttons to see how your score changes week to week.

 1.2-score-details

You can also see your percentile rank among all Automatic drivers. Here’s a fun fact about drive scores in general: we’ve noticed a significant upward trend since Automatic launched this summer, so don’t be surprised if you’re not alone with a high score. More on this in an upcoming blog post.

Let us know what you think about the score details in this community topic.

Parking

You may not notice all the improvements at first, so tap to expand the parking map and see what’s new. First, the bottom bar adds familiar mapping features like a button to center the map and orient it to your compass heading, to switch between normal and satellite map views, and to get walking directions in either Apple or Google maps.

1.2-parking-map

Next, if your phone’s GPS fix isn’t exact – which happens from time to time –  you’ll see an accuracy bubble around the point to let you know where to find your car.

Last, popping out of the car’s location pin you’ll see the address and a button to share that location with anyone you like, via text message, email, or even a Facebook post. We can’t wait to see how you use that last one!

Join us in a discussion about these parking features in this community topic.

Trip Timeline

The trip timeline is at the heart of the Automatic app but can get cluttered with long addresses and trip segments caused by brief stops along a longer trip. We address both of these issues in this release.

You can now name any location you drive to. Just tap the little pencil icon next to the location and edit the label. You only need to do this once to update every location in your timeline within 100 meters (328 ft). Common locations like home, work, and school are just a tap away.

1.2-custom-location-names

Next, trips with brief stops between them (e.g. from home to the gas station to work) no longer appear as multiple trips in the timeline. Instead, when you stop for less than 15 minutes between trips, the timeline will group them into a single multi-segment trip. If you’d prefer not to see trips individually, you can adjust the “Brief Stops” switch in settings.

1.2-mutli-segment-trip

We’re looking into other ways to make the timeline better reflect how people think about their trips, so we’d appreciate your input in this community topic.

That’s all for now. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us. We’re listening and planning the exciting future of Automatic, so stay tuned.

amazon-logo

Automatic: Now Available on Amazon!

Great news! As of today, you can buy Automatic on Amazon.com, the largest online store on the planet. We’re excited to be able to bring our product to an even wider audience. With Amazon Prime and free two-day shipping, you’ll be able to order your Automatic Link, download the app, and get on the road faster than ever. The Link retails for $99.95. The app and service are free.

New to Automatic?

Automatic is an iPhone app that pairs with a beautiful piece of intelligent hardware called the Automatic Link. The Link plugs into the OBD-II port of your car, connecting your phone to your car’s onboard computer while you drive. All cars manufactured for sale in the U.S. since 1996 have an OBD-II port and most are compatible with Automatic.

Automatic is a Smart Driving Assistant: It helps you adjust your driving habits to save gas, remembers where you parked, and helps you decode and clear your car’s “check engine” light. Automatic can also detect many kinds of serious crashes, call for help, and alert loved ones, without an expensive subscription fee.

We’re Hiring

I’m proud to work with a wonderful team, dedicated to helping people drive smarter and happier. We’d love for you to join us. We’re looking for hardware, server, iOS, and Android engineers, but we always want to meet interesting, smart people who want to help make Automatic better in new and exciting ways. If we’re looking for you, let us know.

Stay in Touch

Join us in the customer community to ask questions and share feedback with us and each other.

Drive on!