Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cool tool

I’m evaluating the Automatic gizmo for the Amazon Vine Program. Here’s my review:
After a few minutes of frustration because I wasn't plugging the unit in firmly enough, I was able to complete the setup process and start tracking my driving habits.
Automatic gave me a grade of 97 after a 59.1-mile day of running errands. I would have graded higher except for a couple of stops that were a little too abrupt for Automatic's sensibilities. The unit beeps to protest quick starts, quick stops and speeds over 70 mph. Given those criteria, I don't expect it to save me much money because I'm not an aggressive driver. If I drove like a 16-year-old, it would be a very different story, but I'm 68 and I save that kind of behavior for my motorcycles. I like the security of the Crash Alert feature that will call my wife's smartphone in the event of a major mishap. It sent a test message to her this morning when I entered her number into the app, which she found startling until she figured out it was just a test.
My car has full functionality with Automatic except that it does not have a sensor that reports fuel level (then how does the gas gauge work?). Consequently, trip costs reported by Automatic are based on local average gas prices. I assume it references Gas Buddy or some similar gas price database for the price of gas.
Our other car is an '03 Subaru Forester that is not supported by Automatic. The web site let me sign up to be notified if and when they figure out how to make Automatic work with the 10-year-old Forester. I'm not holding my breath.
As a tool for improving fuel economy, Automatic's best use is with young or undisciplined drivers. But if you are a gadget geek or want to make an accurate record of your daily to-ings and fro-ings, or want the security of having someone notified if you crash, this is an excellent product.
Oh, it also reads and interprets engine fault codes, so you don't have to freak out when the "Check Engine" light comes on. Automatic will tell you what's wrong, tell you how to fix it if it's owner fixable, guide you to the nearest mechanic if it's not, and let you clear the code and turn off that annoying light. That's an added feature that's quite a bonus considering that people can pay more than $100 for an engine code reader.

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