With gas costs on the rise, adjusting your driving to be more fuel efficient can real pay off. A gadget and its accompanying mobile app can help you do just that, even if your car isn’t necessarily state of the art.
Automatic bills itself as a smart driving assistant. It plugs into the onboard computer on your car and collects data as you drive. That data beams to your iPhone or Android smartphone via Bluetooth, where the Automatic app calculates how much each trip costs you.
The Automatic dongle works with any car that features a computer socket—most cars sold in the US after 1996 have one. From there it’s simply a matter of pairing the accessory with a phone running the Android or iOS version of the Automatic app.
The Automatic system tracks how much fuel you use on a trip as well as hard stops and fast accelerations. Using that data, you can adjust your driving to maximize your fuel efficiency. There’s a gamification element, too, in which you earn points for how well you drive.
Does it work? You can judge for yourself after watching this video report. But I’ve been using Automatic for a few weeks, and it’s taught me a lot about my driving. On a trip between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, I drove 70 mph on one leg; that cost me a little less than $5 in gas. On the return leg, I dropped my average speed to 60 miles an hour, which brought my fuel costs down to $4. The Automatic unit costs $100, and its maker contends that you can save more than that in fuel efficiency per year.