Nissan extends trial of ultra-compact EV sharing service in Yokohama for one year; publishes top-level data
GM mid-size pickups EPA-rated at 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined

Ford and Automatic Labs working together to support connected-car solutions

Automatic uses vehicle data from the OBD port to report on driving performance. Click to enlarge.

Automatic Labs and Ford Motor Company announced a joint experimental collaboration to improve the driving experience for Ford & Lincoln vehicle owners. Together, the companies will test and develop new features that provide enhanced capabilities enabling drivers to opt-in to provide data from their vehicle and then use that information to be smarter, safer drivers.

Automatic provides a widget that plugs into the OBD port and uses a car’s onboard computer and the driver’s smartphone’s GPS and data plan (via Bluetooth) to upgrade the car’s capabilities. For example, Automatic learns about a driver’s driving style and provides subtle audio cues when a driver does things that waste gas, such as:

  • Rough Braking. Braking abruptly decreases fuel efficiency and dramatically increases wear-and-tear on your car’s brake pads.

  • Speeding. Highway speeding may not save you much time, but driving 10 mph over the speed limit reduces fuel efficiency by 12-15%.

  • Rapid Acceleration. Stepping hard on the gas pedal decreases fuel efficiency and wastes money.

Automatic shows how a driver is doing on every trip. It also scores driving every week to help the driver improve.

The Automatic app can display detailed info about a week, such as drive distance and destinations. The app will display actual mpg for all trips; detect fill-ups; and track local gas prices.

Using its built-in accelerometer, Automatic can also detect many types of serious crashes. Agents from Automatic report the situation to local authorities to get you help in an emergency.

Automatic also shows what Engine Trouble Codes mean and in many cases offers possible solutions.

Finally, Automatic can help you locate your parked car.

In August, Automatic introduced the Web Dashboard, enabling drivers to explore the data behind their drives with Automatic. The Dashboard lets a driver dig deeper and spot trends to learn more about driving habits.


Ford SYNC already allows drivers to make calls, listen to music and get directions with an optional navigation feature through the touch of a button on the steering wheel while keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

While Automatic’s device has been available in Apple and Best Buy stores since last year, this is the first time the company has teamed up with an auto manufacturer to experiment with its in-vehicle entertainment and communications system.

Customers will be given the option to opt-in to Automatic.

Ford’s powerful in-car technology makes working with Ford highly valuable for us. Ford’s interface—coupled with Automatic’s connected services platform—enables us to bring customized one-touch applications to Ford drivers that go beyond the capabilities of either technology on its own.

—Automatic CEO Thejo Kote

The first of several features available to drivers who use Automatic in supported Ford SYNC-equipped vehicles will make Apple’s Siri personal assistant application accessible on Apple iPhone through the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. This means drivers will not have to reach for their iPhone while operating their vehicle, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

The Automatic device. Click to enlarge.

In addition, Automatic will provide greater convenience to drivers by connecting the push-to-talk button to the “Internet of Things,” enabling access to the popular If This Then That, or IFTTT, web service, which automates actions using the Internet.

This allows drivers to use the push-to-talk button to trigger an IFTTT recipe from among hundreds in the web service library. IFTTT recipes range from sending messages to remotely operating home appliances. Users will be able to create their own recipes as well. Automatic will launch additional connected-car enhancements in the coming months.

Ford is always looking for new ways, including working with other innovative companies, to improve our customers’ experience. Teaming up with Automatic was the natural choice given their connected car technology and focus on enhancing the driving experience.

—Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services at Ford

Ford vehicles supported by Automatic’s technology include the 2011-2015 Ford Explorer, 2013-2015 Ford Flex, 2011-2014 Ford F-150, 2011-2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty and 2013-2015 Ford Taurus. Supported Lincoln vehicles include the 2013-2015 Lincoln MKS, 2013-2015 Lincoln MKT, 2011-2014 Lincoln MKX and the 2015 Lincoln Navigator. Ford and Automatic encourage drivers not to drive while distracted.

The new Ford Automatic integration will be available by downloading the latest version of the Automatic iOS app in coming weeks.



"This means drivers will not have to reach for their iPhone while operating their vehicle, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel."

Stupid car makers haven't changed since the Ford Pinto was burning people alive. They know that talking on the phone while driving, hands-free or not, is as bad as being drunk behind the wheel. But they can't ignore any opportunity to scam their customers , in their quest to make a buck. They should be working with cell phone makers to integrate the phone and the car, so the driver's phone can't operate when the car is in motion.


A good solution would be to put the driver + phone in the back seat and let the driver-less system do the job.


I have used Automatic since March. I bought it almost exclusively for its ability to read, interpret and reset check engine warnings, but it is interesting in its other abilities.

Its interpretations of hard accelleration and braking, however, are not vehicle specific and worse, can be traffic related. For instance, those familiar with hybrid "pulse and glide" fuel efficient driving technique, would be irked that the product decreases the score for such "hard acceleration."

Aside from unfimiliarty with a given route, panic stops are more likely to be the result of inconsiderate drivers. When Automatic detects a heavy foot on both the acceleator and brake, then it would be justified in deducting points!

I like Automatic's potential. I like the developer's responsiveness to issues, but the software/hardware interface is not completely reliable yet. I've witnessed four software upgrades and two firmware upgrades and I still ocassionally miss recording a trip due to a bluetooth miscommunication.

I hope the resources offered by Ford can make the product more robust and valiable to drivers. I also hope that directions offered by map softwares can also use this data to direct the most fuel efficient trips based on vehicle characteristics and capabilities.


BTW, anything they can do to make the module smaller is welcome, too. In my daughter's car, my knee nicks the module every time I enter the driver's seat. In my own car, I've ripped it out of the socket with an imprecise boot to release the parking brake. In all cases where the module was violently dislodged from the socket and hit the pavement, it was easily snapped back together and functioned normally.


Something is already available that helps prevent distracted driving. Check out This is a Bluetooth device that goes into the car's OBD-II port in the car. This emits a Bluetooth signal that prevents texts from coming in. Really valuable for preventing distracted driving and saving lives.

The comments to this entry are closed.