Automatic Labs: new automotive technology for your old car
There is a lot of excitement these days about disruptions in the auto industry like smarter cars that can be driven for example. Companies like Faraday Future promise to make driving your car a much more personalized experience with their soon-to-be-unveiled electric vehicle built by former Tesla employees. But what about those of us who already own one of the 250 million cars on the road today in the United States? Why can’t someone develop an app that integrates with my car to make it smarter? Well, someone did, and that someone is a company called Automatic Labs.
About automatic laboratories
Founded in 2013, Automatic Labs has so far received around $ 24 million in funding from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Y Combinator, Comcast and automotive technology company CDK Global (NASDAQ: CDK). Automatic has developed a device that plugs into your car and turns it into a platform for apps. Often described as “Fitbit for your car,” the device works for the majority of gasoline, hybrid and diesel vehicles manufactured for the United States that were manufactured after 1996, and is plugged into the OBD-II diagnostic connector port each car has as seen below:
Once the Automatic Labs device is plugged in, you can now use their free mobile app to start doing cool things like tracking your exact gas mileage, seeing fault codes when the “check engine” light comes on , turn off the check engine light, and check where you parked your car.
The automatic adapter communicates with your phone via bluetooth and also comes with a built-in GPS so that it can record travel routes even without a phone present. It also comes with a speakerphone that can be configured to provide “feedback” on your driving, say for example if you go over 70 mph, brake hard, or accelerate too fast (frankly, that sounds like a horrible feature). Using a built-in accelerometer, the adapter can also detect a crash and will broadcast a message to let you know it’s about to call for help. An accident alert agent then calls your phone to confirm that you need help, a service provided free of charge.
So the adapter seems really useful, and at a price of $ 99, it’s also affordable. You can buy one here for $ 99. From an investor’s perspective, Automatic Labs is a company that has serious potential with its business model that encourages other companies to pay them royalties for accessing data from the device. Automatic Labs has partnered with over 20 third-party app developers who create apps that extract information from its adapter which transmits real-time data from your car’s computer and sensors to your phone. For example, there is an app for Concur that allows you to easily record your work as a business expense. Another app lets you share the cost of fuel with friends. There are performance apps that provide stats on your engine power and even lap times if you are on a race track. For Uber drivers, there is an app that calculates your profits after taking into account the fuel you use and the time you spend waiting.
With CDK Global as an investor, a likely exit event would see them acquire Automatic Labs. CDK provides technology solutions to 27,000 car dealerships around the world, and this adapter would be the gateway for dealers to access an enormous wealth of data. The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is also an investor in Automatic Labs, and speculation suggests there may be a use case here for the auto insurance industry to use the data from Automatic. The entire platform has huge potential, and while competing devices are in development, Automatic has the first-mover advantage.
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