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App Chat: Become a better driver using these digital tools

Image showing a woman using the Automatic app.
Image showing a woman using the Automatic app.

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Joining me this week is Take Two producer Jacob Margolis. This week we're talking about car apps that make you a better driver. 


It's actually a little device that plugs into your car's on-board diagnostics port, and it has an accompanying app on iPhones and androids. It costs $100 and it basically turns your dumb car into a smart car. There are three parts to it: It'll call emergency services if you're in an accident, it can detect if you crash with the devices onboard accelerometer, and it'll also tell you what's wrong with your engine if your check engine light comes on.

It also tells you what type of driver you are. The app tracks the length of each trip you take, the type of MPG you're getting and whether you accelerate too hard, braking to hard or how often you're going over 70 mph. It'll break all of this down into a daily and weekly report, and it rates you on a scale of one to 100.

It's neat the first couple of times it beeps at you when you accelerate or brake too hard, but it gets really irritating, especially when all you're doing is following the flow of traffic through Hollywood.

I tried to keep up with the drivers in front of me after lights changed and it would beep that I'm accelerating to hard. I tried to brake appropriately in L.A. traffic, and it would beep that I was braking too hard. Eventually I was able to avoid the beep, but it became a Pavlovian response. making me become a more mindful driver.

The app is good for you if you have an older car and you'd like to know how your driving is, or if you have a new car and you're obsessive and want to quantify your whole life. It might also be good for parents who want to monitor how their teenagers are driving.


This free app is supposed to be able to tell you if you need to inflate your tires using your phone's camera. You input your car type and tire type and you hold the camera in front of the tires it tells you if they need to be inflated or not.

I tested it out a few times. Before I inflated my tires it told me that they were dangerously low, and that I was wasting money because of underinflated tires. I inflated them according to a hand held gauge and they were still too low according to the app.

So it's not the most accurate app. I'd recommend you buy a digital tire gauge on amazon for $10 and keep it in your glove compartment.