OBD-II. At a glance, you’re probably assuming that this is a little-known member of the Wu-Tang Clan who somehow escaped the 36 Chambers. Close, but no cigar. What it actually is is a specification embedded into practically every gasoline-powered automobile built since 1996, and if you’ve ever bothered to look above your gas pedal, you’ll probably see a rectangular port just waiting to be loved. Traditionally, that port has been used by mechanics with custom diagnostic readers in order to better describe what that warning light on your dash was about. Today, it’s empowering you — the all-important motorist. While OBD-II devices (and accompanying apps) have been around for years, Automatic’s Link is different. It’s beautiful. It’s elegant. And, perhaps most importantly, it just works.
From my perspective, the automobile is the next great mainstream frontier for technology to truly pervade. Comically long lead times — often reaching 7 years or longer — have prevented even high-end motorcars from embracing the newest of technologies, but tools like Automatic help to circumvent the issue. In a nutshell, the Link is a small, white nub that plugs into your car’s OBD-II port. It’s fairly useless without the accompanying app, which runs quietly in the background of your phone and speaks to the Link via Bluetooth. For now, the app is iOS-only, but a beta build is expected to hit next month for the Android faithful. What’s it do? Monitors your acceleration and braking to give you tips on better a more fuel-efficient driver, alerts people of your choosing should you end up in a crash, gives you instant information on any warning lights, and keeps a beautiful record of your trips without any effort on your part. To me, however, the real potential of the $99 Link has yet to be tapped. Head on past the break to hear why. More →