Automatic has launched a device for the car that provides some OnStar-like features but without any service fees.
The device, also called Automatic, plugs into the OBDII port in the car by the user and then sends info about the car to an iPhone 4S or 5.
The device gives you “subtle clues” as you drive if you do something to waste gas (like accelerate quickly). Small adjustments in driving habits can cut a gas bill by a third, says the company.
If you are in an accident, the system dials 911 via a free app that runs in the background on your phone. And if your check engine light comes on, it tells you why and lets you turn off the light from your phone. It can also help you find your parked car.
“Cars are the second largest expense in our lives, with the average American family spending more than $8,000 on their car every year… Studies have shown that with small adjustment to driving habits, consumers can save up to 35…percent per year on gas,” said Automatic co-founder Thejo Kote.
An Android version is due this fall.
So how is Automatic able to offer telematics free of recurring service charges? It works over a Bluetooth low energy connection to the smartphone so the device uses little power. It relies on the phone’s GPS and cellular connection for data but uses only about 5MB of data per month, less than the equivalent of sending 3 photos, says Automatica’s Chief Product Officer Ljuba Miljkovic. The Bluetooth low energy standard also permits the app required for the system to run in the background on the phone as you drive. So the driver doesn’t need to launch the app each time he enters the car.
“It is simpler to build a system entirely integrated with its own data connection and GPS as there are lot of moving parts. It has the downside of costing more in monthly fees and at the point of sale,” said Miljkovic of most similar systems.
The $69.95 device is now available online for pre-order and ships in May. In the future, Automatica may be sold through retailers, said Miljkovic.
You can view a short video here.