Automatic’s $100 car adapter plugs into the standard diagnostics port present on most American automobiles manufactured since 1996. Once plugged in, the adapter connects to the driver’s iOS devices, offering the ability to track and visualize data around travel distances and times, miles per gallon, and gas costs.
In an effort to help drivers realize the best fuel efficiency possible, the Automatic app can provide audio alerts that offer feedback on driving habits. The app also has the ability to identify vehicle location, retrieve and analyze problems indicated by the Check Engine light, and call for roadside assistance in case of an emergency.
By offering up APIs and SDKs to third-party developers, Automatic is seeking to turn its technology into a platform so that others can build apps for the connected car.
At launch, the company is offering several APIs: A REST API that gives developers read and write access to data stored in Automatic’s cloud, a Real-time Event API that allows developers to receive event notifications via webhooks and websockets, and a Streaming API that permits developers to build apps that interact directly with the company’s hardware.
Initially, Automatic counts nearly two dozen partner companies which have integrated their services into Automatic’s platform. Expensify’s integration, for instance, can help drivers track mileage expenses, while IFTTT’s integration allows users to automate routines based on their driving activity.
A different approach to the connected car
The connected car is expected to be a big trend in coming years and already automakers are making significant investments in building automobiles and platforms that enable drivers to connect their digital devices to their cars.
One of the biggest challenges for developers, however, is that automaker-created platforms result in fragmentation and iOS versus Android-like scenarios. For many developers, integrating with all platforms will be too time-consuming and costly to be viable.
Companies like OnStar and Automatic, however, alleviate some of these challenges because their platforms are built on devices that work across makes and models. With Automatic’s support for most cars manufactured after 1995, the company provides developers an easy way to build apps that millions of drivers can potentially put to use.
For Automatic to succeed, of course, those millions of drivers will need to buy its $100 device, and its open developer platform could help it convince them that the cost is worth it. Despite all of the hype around the connected car, killer apps are still needed and companies like Automatic stand a much better chance of developing them by welcoming and supporting third-party developers.