The startup that I’ve been part of for more than a year has launched this week : Automatic – Your Smart Driving Assistant. It’s a hardware device + mobile app + cloud combination that helps you save money by helping you drive in a more fuel-efficient way, monitor your car engine’s health, automatic call to local authorities/911 in case of a car crash, and will automatically remember where you parked your car (note that the product is currently USA-only).
Watch the video:
Now, go and pre-order it now at www.automatic.com.
So how did I get involved? A couple of years back when I was considering freelancing full-time, Thejo Kote got in touch with me and I got started with NextDrop for which he was one of the co-founders. After some time, I was looking for something more long-term, so I pinged Thejo and he welcomed me to join his new startup.
It was a YCombinator company and was well-funded and I actually liked the idea, although at the time I was skeptical if this is something people will buy, that question has been comprehensively answered by the audience response and media coverage this week. Finally, I’m part of a hardware startup that had a working product before preorder launch :)
It was funny that as we were working on this in stealth, I would see many articles such as:
- Forget the Internet of Things: Here Comes the ‘Internet of Cars’
- Cars Are The Next Playground For App Developers
- The startup hardware M&A market will be vibrant in 2013
- Your Car: The Next Big App Platform!
- U.S. govt. report that household expenditures for gasoline account for nearly 4% of pretax income
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers quantify the effect of increasing highway speed on fuel economy
- Here’s How Much Speeding Really Costs Drivers At The Pump
- How much is fast driving costing you?
And I would think to myself that we are working on the same area.
The past few weeks have been all about the company showing demos to journalists and interested people and the result has been there for all to see, snippets below.
Fast Company says:
A visionary gadget that makes any drive more fuel-efficient.
Automatic could do for driving what the iPod did for music.
The Verge says:
Cars have been equipped with onboard computers for decades now, but as they get smarter, they remain stubbornly closed off. You might see an miles-per-gallon reading on your dashboard, but there’s no way to check it on your phone, and as soon as you finish a trip on an on-board GPS system, it’s gone forever. As Automatic CEO Thejo Kote puts it, “your car is the most expensive computer you own.” And it’s usually a pretty bad one. Naturally, Kote has a plan to fix that.
The most prominent feature is a fuel-efficiency score, designed to nudge you into gas-saving driving habits. Automatic is playing off a Department of Energy report which found that avoiding hard stops, fast starts, and speeding can increase gas mileage by up to 33 percent.
It could be the most practical take so far on what a cloud-connected car should look like — an area that auto-averse startup scene has mostly overlooked. Automatic is working towards a time when users and developers can access a car’s data whenever they want, and use that data to build new features. From there, it’s easy to imagine more applications, from parental car-tracking to next-generation traffic apps, but the first step is getting the data off the dashboard. With the app-connector combination, Automotive has set up a remarkably painless way to do it.
MIT Technology Review says:
The device combines two burgeoning trends—the “Internet of things,” where traditionally offline gadgets are connected to the Internet to amplify their usefulness (see “50 Disruptive Companies 2013: Nest’s Smarter Home”), and the mining of data that’s collected by our devices for meaning (see “Every Step You Take, Tracked Automatically”). By putting these two together, the company thinks it can get users to conserve gas and spend less—and make a profit itself while doing so.
People spend a ton of money on their cars every year, from car payments to insurance to gas to maintenance. But for such expensive assets, most people normally don’t know a whole lot about what’s happening under the hood, or how they can drive or maintain their cars better over time. The folks at Automatic want to change all that, with a smart combination of hardware and mobile apps to keep people better informed of how their cars are doing.
Automatic investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Y Combinator, as well as a group of angels.
In addition to helping people spend less money on gas, the app also shows you why the check-engine light comes on (and permits users to turn it off), directs you to your parking spot and automatically calls 911 if you get into a collision. It also tracks the cost of every mile you drive, a calculation based on a continually updated stream of data of gas prices from stations across the country. All these functions came about after the founders realized what a device that could monitor fuel use can do, said Jariyasunant, a co-founder.
We saw Automatic in action on a little drive around the streets of New York City last week. Along with an iPhone app, the little dongle will track your gas mileage and remember where you parked. It’ll also even give you a little notification if you’re braking too hard or accelerating too fast. Why? These are apparently a couple of habits that make you use more gas than you need to. How are you driving? It’ll give you personalized feedback every week in score from 1-100. And it tries to lookout for your car too. Engine light flips on? You can tap a notification to see what the issue is. If it’s no big deal, you can turn the light off all from within the app. Or you can look up a nearby mechanic to get things sorted out. And god forbid you get in a wreck, Automatic will automatically of course call emergency responders and send texts to three numbers you pre-determined to let them know you’re ok.
We spent a little time with Automatic and were impressed.
One of the biggest highs for me was seeing it on TechMeme:
Automatic seems like such a good idea. If it delivers, it's going to be a huge product: http://t.co/NO9RQ3a878
— Jason Fried (@jasonfried) March 12, 2013
— Jason Fried (@jasonfried) March 12, 2013
— Tim O'Reilly (@timoreilly) March 13, 2013
The latest installment of the hardware renaissance: Automatic. http://t.co/4VYlDF8qe8
— Paul Graham (@paulg) March 12, 2013
— Josh Brewer (@jbrewer) March 12, 2013
Shut up and take my money: Automatic gets telemetry from your car into your iPhone, does smart things with it. http://t.co/2xck2H1Bjh
— Rafe Needleman (@Rafe) March 12, 2013
— Arush (@arush) March 13, 2013
I have never gone from product discovery to purchase faster than this. Get the data to help you drive smarter. http://t.co/275mW6RazH
— Drew Michael Blake (@drewble) March 12, 2013
Your old car + phone + http://t.co/aaohNleoLO = The smart car we’ve been waiting for. Too cool.
— Bryan Birsic (@birsic) March 13, 2013
— Jawbone (@Jawbone) March 13, 2013
— Morgan Williams (@mrgnw) March 13, 2013
You guys took the mobile world to another level!! @Automatic
— Jinesh Patel (@civilizedgauti) March 14, 2013
— andreas lieber (@lieber) March 14, 2013
jesus http://t.co/OoYm09jCC2 is so amazing it makes me want to buy a car and learn how to drive
— Dan Nolan (@dannolan) March 12, 2013
Automatic seems too good to be true. I think I’ll get one. http://t.co/O96oBVF3qJ
— Marc Edwards (@marcedwards) March 13, 2013
— Jonas Grankvist (@jgrankvist) March 13, 2013
@automatic WOOHOO! I just preordered. This is super cool!!! Can't wait to get it.
— Charlie Sheets (@charliesheets) March 13, 2013
— AJ Fleming (@lolheyaj) March 13, 2013
@automatic how the?! That's it! I'm moving to the States just so I can have this in my life!
— Ether Creative (@ethercreative) March 13, 2013
— Joshua Sortino (@joshuasortino) March 13, 2013
— Onur Özer (@onurozer) March 14, 2013
— Brentt Baltimore (@brenttbalt) March 14, 2013
— Dean K (@deanlk) March 14, 2013
My mother needs this. http://t.co/XRdA96GTUe
— Parker (@parkr) March 14, 2013
— Shawn Lein (@SMLein) March 14, 2013
— Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg) March 21, 2013
A simple twitter search for @automatic will reveal a lot more feedback :)
I hope now my dear friends will forgive me for not revealing a lot what I’ve been working on:
— Abishek Nair (@abisheknair) March 9, 2013
— Jon Fortt (@jonfortt) March 6, 2013
— Abishek Nair (@abisheknair) March 9, 2013
The past one year and three months has been an interesting time for me, and we have a great team in-place:
If you are interesting in the kind of things we are doing, we have open positions for engineers, so join us – we’re looking for a Server engineer, iOS engineer, Android engineer and Firmware engineer – please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly contact me if you’re interested.
In the end, we have our eyes on only one thing: delivering on the promise the company’s been making and I’m confident that Thejo will lead us there successfully. So after the launch frenzy, its heads down and back to work.