They say there's an app for everything, but it's more accurate to say that there are many apps for nearly everything.
By which we mean that there are plenty of apps on the market, but most are very specialized. They're better at solving specific problems rather than a range of related issues.
When it comes to cars, for example, there are apps that teach us how to drive more economically, apps that tell us when our car needs service, and apps that let us call for help when problems arise. Rather than one app to rule them all, we often have a folder on our homescreen that contains a series of focused apps.
Not anymore. A new app called Automatic wraps the services of a driving coach, a mechanic, and a first-responder into one convenient package.
What enables Automatic to do that is a gadget called Automatic Link. It's about the size of Progressive's Snapshot device, and it plugs into the same spot on your vehicle: the onboard diagnostic port, just beneath the dashboard.
Automatic Link acts as a bridge between your vehicle and your smartphone. When your "check engine" light comes on, for example, you don't have to guess where the problem lies. Automatic Link sends diagnostics data to the Automatic app, giving you a complete report.
Similarly, Automatic Link helps the Automatic app keep tabs on your car's location. Forgot where you parked at the mall? Crack open the app, and you'll be able to pinpoint your vehicle on a map. That feature could come in handy for families who share a car, since multiple phones can interface with Automatic Link. (Though that requires permission from the primary user.) Presumably, this could also be useful if your car were stolen.
If you're in an accident, Automatic Link notifies the Automatic app, then calls for help and notifies up to three friends of family members.
And together, the gadget and the app work to learn your driving style, keep track of your fuel economy, and offer suggestions to improve your mileage.
According to the manufacturer's website, Automatic will be available for the iPhone in May, with an Android version to follow in the fall. Early adopters can pre-order Automatic Link for $69.95. (It's a little pricey, but thankfully, it's a one-time fee, and the service doesn't require a subscription.)
We'll offer a review when we get our hands on Automatic later this year. In the meantime, check out the video embedded above to get a sense of what Automatic aims to do.