The OBD-II data port is a standard feature on all modern cars, providing access to fuel, mileage and engine data. Plugging in a small $69.95 reader allows this data to be transmitted via Bluetooth to your iPhone as you drive. The app then analyzes this to log a range of data, including fuel efficiency, driving style and engine performance. The app then combines this data with GPS info and an online database to tell you the cost of every journey you make.
The hardware unit connects to a car's OBD-II Data Link Connector — an often-overlooked data port that's been standard on every car since 1996. Through the data link, Automatic has access to fuel, mileage, and engine information, which it sends to your phone through its Bluetooth antenna. From there, the app pulls in GPS, fuel pricing, and map data to build a comprehensive picture of every drive you take. When you stop to fill up, Automatic uses geolocation data to determine which gas station you're at, then uses its own database of stations and daily prices to calculate how much you paid.
Audio pings tell you when you are braking sharply or accelerating hard, driving behaviors that can increase gas mileage by a third. The app can also read and reset "engine check" codes, allowing you to determine whether that annoying light on your dash is something serious or trivial, and allow you to switch it off again without the need to visit a mechanic.
Automatic also includes a "crash alert" system, using the iPhone's accelerometer to detect certain types of crashes and automatically call 911 to report name, location, and vehicle description.
Automatic Link is not the first product to offer access to ODB data on iOS devices, but it does appear to offer a more complete feature set and polished user interface than has been seen on products released to date. Automatic Link launches in May, with pre-orders available now.