(Update on 5/26/2020) Automatic Labs is shutting down. All their services such as vehicle tracking, crash alert, etc will be discontinued on May 28th, 2020. All information including shutdown, data export, the rebate can be found in the customer FAQ page of their website.
(Updated in August 2019, Automatic Pro was discontinued. The new adapter was released. It’s using LTE network instead of 3G.) Automatic Pro is an adapter plugged into vehicles diagnostic port called OBD port (or Data Link Connector.) All cars and light trucks sold in the United States in 1996 or later have this port. The purpose of OBD port is to pull off information from vehicle’s computer by using OBD scanners plugged into the port. Then, auto mechanics can start diagnosing emission related problems based on the information. Although Automatic Pro can pull off information to help you diagnose vehicles problems, its main feature is vehicles tracking.
Real-Time Tracking from anywhere
The adapter has a built-in GPS and 3G-network chip. They allow you to track a vehicle and record without a need of other devices such as smartphones or PCs. Logs are recorded in a cloud. You can access to them through an app. And you can also monitor a vehicle location in real time with the app.
Coverage map of Telefonica
The adapter works only in the United States right now. The 3G network of the adapter is Telefonica. The company doesn’t provide a coverage map, but according to Automatic customer support, it’s the same as AT&T and T-mobile coverage. If an area is covered by either AT&T or T-mobile 3G network, it should work. There is a very informative website that provides all cellular networks’ performance and coverage in the world. Go to https://opensignal.com/ to see coverage maps of AT&T and T-mobile.
No Contract, No Subscription for 3G Cellular Network
Automatic claims that 3G network is free for five years, but they don’t ever plan to charge a subscription fee after five years. For legal reasons, there has to be a time limit for subscription-free 3G network plan. You will be able to continue using the adapter without a subscription fee.
OBD Fusion for live data, customized instrument panel, etc
Many selected 3rd party apps are compatible with Automatic Pro. One of the apps called OBD Fusion shows many engine data which Automatic app doesn’t support. You can customize them on a display of smartphone and use it as a secondary or additional instrument panel. OBD Fusion costs $3.99 for Android and $9.99 for iOS devices.
Works with Alexa
With Amazon Alexa’s Skill “Automatic” enabled, Alexa will tell you a location of your car, fuel level, and how far you drove by saying:
- “Alexa, ask Automatic where my car is.”
- “Alexa, ask Automatic how much gas is left.”
- “Alexa, ask Automatic how far I drove yesterday (or last month, this year, etc.)”
Connect with other apps with IFTTT
Automatic app can connect other apps to automate recording your drive or control smart devices through IFTTT. Events like turning on/off the ignition or enter/leave an area can be used as triggers. You can create “Applets” like:
- If “New trip completed” then “Log on Google Drive spreadsheet.”
- If “Turn off an ignition in the area” then “Set Nest thermostat to xx degree.”
- If “Leave home” then “Turn off all Philips Hue lights.”
About previous versions of Automatic
Automatic has two previous versions, 1st and 2nd gen. Either version doesn’t have a 3G chip. So, they need a smartphone in a car that is connected to the adapter via Bluetooth. Although both versions rely on smartphone’s cellular connection for data logging and transfer, 2nd gen has a built-in GPS so you can retrieve data with a map and route. And it keeps up to 8 hours of driving data in case there is no connected smartphone in a car. Next time you bring a smartphone, these data will be retrieved. And 2nd gen is compatible with all 3rd party apps that you can use with Pro. Two versions work with a different app from Pro. It’s called “Automatic Classic.”
About newest version, Automatic Lite
There is one more version available only at Automatic website for $79.95. It’s called “Automatic Lite.” It works with the same app as Pro, “Automatic.” Lite is released most recently, but it lacks a lot of features. Lite doesn’t have a 3G chip, so you have to have a connected smartphone in a car. Like 2nd gen, it has a built-in GPS so you can retrieve up to 8 hours of data with map and route in case you forget to bring a phone. Lite seems pretty much the same as 2nd gen, but Lite is compatible with very few 3rd party apps. That makes Lite a far less appealing than 2nd gen.
Other 3G OBD adapters
It’s been a while since Pro was released. Automatic is no longer the only vendor of 3G OBD adapters. There are a few 3G adapters from other companies, Vyncs and VTPlug 3G. They’re being sold at Amazon for $69.99 and $59.99 respectively. They are around half price of Automatic Pro, but a drawback is that they charge an additional fee for faster GPS updates. Vyncs charges for an update rate of 60 sec ($30/yr), 30 sec ($80/yr), 15 sec ($129/yr) and 3 min by default. VTPlug 3G charges $12.99/$15.99/$20.99/$25.99 per month for updates every 120/60/30/15 seconds. When you take account of these recurring payments, they are very expensive.
Automatic Pro provides real-time tracking on any devices installed the app. Even if someone else drives your car, you can monitor where the car is driving thanks to 3G network chip. It’s a great advantage for those who share one car with many people like all member of a family using a single car or multiple workers using a company car. On the other hand, other three Automatic adapters without a 3G chip, all drivers need to bring their smartphones in a car. And they also need to install an app on their smartphones and use the same account. However, if you are a sole driver of your vehicle, you usually carry your smartphone, and an area you drive has good cellular reception, you may want to choose 2nd gen because it’s available eBay with a great discount since a Pro’s release. Click here to see the latest price of Automatic Pro.