UPDATE: In August 2019 Automatic made a decision to move to an optional subscription model of $5/month to get all the features explained in this post. At the same time they decided to expire the existing hardware from the time of writing this original post and replace with another model. I was disappointed, at the least to say, of this change making my OBD hardware obsolete and having to not only buy new hardware but also enroll in a subscription plan to get the benefits. I have since then decided to stop using the product.
I have left the original post as it did impact my driving habits and it has sustained even to this day.
Connected cars were one of the big highlights at the 2018 LA Auto Show in November last year. Almost every brand had their own version, showcasing the unique features they had to offer. One of the features that interested me was the Mercedes mbrace service wherein a customer specialist at Mercedes is notified in the event of an accident or collision. Now, this is not a new concept, similar services are offered by On-Star. The part I did not like was the monthly subscription fees for the service.
One day, I accidentally, stumbled upon a social media ad of Automatic Car Adapter. It was $69.99 for a unit at that time and there were no subscription fees for the accident notification service. I decided to give it run.
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For those who have never heard of Automatic, this a little gadget that would fit in the palm of your hand. The unit is plugged into the OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) port of your car. This port is usually under the front dashboard on the driver side but could vary depending on the make and model of the car. This port is used by auto mechanics to connect to car electronics for detecting issues such as “Service Engine Soon” sign.
The main selling point for me on this adapter was the feature where it would send a text to another phone of my choice if it detected collision or airbag deployment. My obvious choice was my wife’s phone number and mine for her’s. I plugged it into the ODB port of my car and went through the easy setup process on my mobile phone. I had to do the same on my wife’s car using her phone.
After few days of installation, while playing with the app, I realized that it had much more to offer than collision notification service. I realized that it was collecting information on my driving habits, style, locations that I had been, even to the extent of telling me how much money I had spent on gas for each trip. This would have freaked out anybody who was too concerned of privacy, but I was not.
I always considered myself a safe driver. Occasionally though, I would lose patience following somebody driving 10-15 mph below the speed limit on the left lane. Depending on my mood, I would either pass them over the right lane accelerating hard or flash my lights signaling them to move over. It appeared a harmless habit until I started seeing my driving score on the Automatic app. The overall driving score is based on how many hard brakes and accelerations you’ve had and for how long you have driven over 70 mph. My score was in the high forties which made me realize that my driving skill was not that good after all.
The next few weeks, I decided to change my driving nature. I would rarely go over 70 mph on my commute to work. Almost completely eliminated hard accelerations and had very few hard brakes. My score immediately jumped to the nineties, which obviously made me feel better.
Over time, in my quest to reach the perfect score of 100, my driving style changed for the good. Even to the extent that my 11 and 6 year old daughters started mentioning it. A part of it could be related to my aging but I think the Automatic car adapter accelerated the behavior.
Now, I do not follow anyone too close in the fear that I might have a hard brake if they braked. I make sure that it is completely clear on both sides of the intersection before getting in so as to avoid the need to accelerate hard. Lastly, I am not concerned of cops on the road as I always within the acceptable speed range.
Speed thrills but kills is my motto now.
The Automatic app has much more to offer than what I mentioned. It provides information such as gas usage cost depending on your area, the amount of gas in your tank, explanation of any warnings or service signs showing up in your car, etc. Of course, it could vary depending on your car make, model and year of manufacture.
With the change I’ve seen on my driving habits, I would recommend this product to anyone.