In today’s “Dammit, that was my idea!” story, I’d like to bring you Automatic’s new app+hardware combo product — a sort of Nike+ “appcessory” package for your car that brings the “fun” and excitement of “hyper-miling” to your iPhone or iPod.
A few years since its introduction, you should all know about the Nike/Apple joint-marketing effort known as Nike+ Running. If you don’t, though, I’ll try to summarize:
there is a small device that plugs into your shoe and measures your steps and strides
the device uses the information it gathers about your steps and strides and determines your speed and distance traveled over time
the device sends that information to your iPod
the iPod records that information and uploads it to the Nike+ website, which “keeps score” of your runs and compares them to others’, essentially allowing you to compete with people who may have very different running schedules as a means to help you stay motivated about running
Change “shoe” to “car’s OBD port” (standard on all cars since 1996) in the above explanation and you’ll be half-way (at least) to understanding the Automatic, which hopes to track miles per gallon and distance traveled in a way that motivates drivers to save fuel. Automatic hopes to bring the “quantifiable self” movement popularized by wearable technology like Nike+ from the exercise world to the automotive world. “[Drivers] are getting zero information about how they’re spending their money,” says Automatic CEO Thejo Kote. “They’re not getting any feedback.”
While you could argue that most new cars do, in fact, give drivers MPG feedback, the kind of “avg. MPG” and “instant MPG” data that they tend to report isn’t always presented in a useful way — the Automatic’s “this trip cost you $x.xx” on the other hand?
Automatic plans to keep the Automatic’s price affordable, with Kote saying the target was no more “than an average fill-up at the pump”. At $69.95, it’s pretty close to the mark, and promises to pay for itself relatively quickly (especially with gas hovering above $4/gallon!). If the technology does prove to save money, it might just accomplish something many consider impossible: it might convince average American drivers to pay attention to how they drive!
The Automatic combo-pack will be available for iPhone and iPod, initially, with an Android version arriving later this year.
I've been working in motorsports and tuning since 1997, with some the biggest names in the business. In 2008, the work we did on a hybrid/EV concept car attracted the attention of Gas 2 editors, and they invited me to join the team. I couldn't resist!