A pair of School of Information alumni are co-founders of an innovative start-up that this week launched its “smart driving assistant.”
Automatic launched an iPhone app and a tiny piece of intelligent hardware called the Automatic Link that connects your iPhone to your car’s onboard computer when you drive. Automatic is a smart driving assistant that helps you save gas, drive safer and understand what's happening under the hood. It also remembers where you parked and can automatically call for help in a crash. The Automatic Link is available for pre-order at automatic.com today and ships in May. The Automatic app and service are free.
The company was co-founded by I School alumni Thejo Kote (MIMS 2011) and Ljuba Miljkovic (MIMS 2010), along with fellow UC Berkeley alumnus Jerry Jariyasunant.
“Smartphones and the internet have transformed our day-to-day lives, but our cars and how we drive them have been left behind. We’re focused on changing that,” said Kote, Automatic’s chief executive officer. “We believe that the smartphone can, in effect, upgrade millions of cars on the road today, and offer drivers features only available in high-end cars with expensive service plans.”
Cars are the second largest expense in our lives, with the average American family spending more than $8,000 on their car every year. Studies have shown that with small adjustment to driving habits, consumers can save up to 35 percent per year on gas. Automatic makes it possible for consumers to gain valuable insight into how they drive and learn how to make small changes to their driving habits that can have a big impact on fuel efficiency.
“We designed Automatic to be affordable and work effortlessly. There’s no data to input manually or subscription to pay. After the initial set-up, all you have to do is bring your phone with you when you drive and everything works, well, automatically,” said Miljkovic, chief product officer at Automatic.
Automatic’s Key Features and Benefits
- Your Drive Score: Automatic gives you personalized feedback on your driving with your weekly drive score on a scale from 0-100. The drive score is based on metrics shown to increase fuel efficiency and safety, like braking and accelerating smoothly. A high score could save you hundreds on gas every year.
- Your Trips in a Timeline: The Automatic app displays detailed information about where you go and how much gas it cost to get there. It shows you the actual MPGs you achieve for all your trips, even for older cars that don’t display fuel efficiency on the dashboard.
- Parking Reminders: Automatic always knows where you parked your car, helping you find it again easily.
- Crash Alert: If you’re ever in a crash, Automatic alerts emergency services with your location. It can even contact your loved ones to let them know what happened and that help is on the way.
- Keep Your Engine Healthy: Automatic connects with your car’s computer whenever you drive and can tell you why that “check engine” light came on. It can decode the problem and in many cases offer a solution. The app even lets you clear the light yourself and save a trip to the mechanic.
Although both are recent MIMS graduates, Automatic is not the first successful venture for either Kote or Miljkovic.
Miljkovic developed Transporter, a smartphone app for navigating the Bay Area’s various public transit systems, as his MIMS final project in 2010. Transporter won the 2010 James R. Chen Award for outstanding master’s project and has been immensely popular on the iTunes app store. “It works so well, it could be a model for public-transit apps in other cities,” according to Slate magazine.
Kote was a co-founder of NextDrop, a social venture that addresses the challenge of unreliable piped water in developing countries by providing households with reliable, near real-time information about water arrival via the mobile phone infrastructure. NextDrop has won a series of awards, including the Chen Award for Kote’s 2011 final project.