Article Lead Image

Now your car can text your girlfriend, post to Facebook, and turn off your houselights

No, your car hasn’t gained self-awareness... but it could get smarter, thanks to Automatic’s IFTTT channel. 


Kate Knibbs


Posted on Feb 26, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 5:11 pm CDT

What if your house lights could automatically turn off as you pulled out of your driveway? What if you could automatically log how many miles you traveled on a road trip to your MacBook? What if your car could notify a mechanic every time an engine light came on?

Automatic just announced it’s integrated with IFTTT to turn your car into a control center. If you get an Automatic data port for your car and connect it with a service called IFTTT, you can do so many freaky things you’ll think you’re in a live-action version of The Jetsons (minus robot servants). This is probably the closest we’re going to get to Knightrider for a while, guys.

IFTTT, which stands for “If this, then that” is a platform that uses “recipes” to help people link together all sorts of Internet services. For example, IFTTT is how you can post Instagram photos to Twitter and get them to show up as a full photo instead of just a link. IFTTT can send automatic SMS weather updates each morning if there’s a chance of rain. It can automatically turn on your lights at home when the sun goes down.

And now IFTTT has partnered with Automatic to make recipes that let cars turn into control centers. Automatic sells for $99.95 and it works with almost every gasoline-engine car sold in the U.S. since 1996. Once someone buys automatic, they can use IFTTT to do all above-mentioned actions—notify mechanics, log miles, turn off house lights—and more: You can set IFTTT up so your car will generate a tweet or post to Facebook as it drives. You can rig it so your boyfriend gets a text every time you leave the office.

Some of these things are obviously more useful than others (I can’t really imagine why you’d want to tweet every time you drove, unless you were trying to cultivate the world’s most excruciatingly boring Twitter account), and some of this stuff only works if you have other accessories. For instance, if you have Philips Hue lights, you can get them to turn off when you leave and on when you get home, you can even put the lights in “party mode” when you get home. But if you have regular old non-Wi-Fi-connected lights, you can’t do any of those things. So this service is definitely most useful to people who have or are interested in buying other stuff that can participate in the Internet of Things.

So when I say this is cool, I mean it, but realize that it’s both impressive and fairly limited—frivolous even. But I’d like to see more recipes that make the most of this partnership as a safety mechanism. For instance, dialing 911 upon sensing serious impact. Or getting an alert to your phone if someone tries to open your car door. 

Regardless of some of the more impractical uses currently out there, there are still a number of intriguing items on the Automatic IFTTT channel (here are all of them). Here are a few of our favorites (that the Hue light-less among us can enjoy): 

Photo via epSos .de/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


Share this article
*First Published: Feb 26, 2014, 9:28 pm CST