Will streaming "performance apps" work with my car & Automatic?

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Posted 2 years ago

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UPDATE: 11/2016

In short: Yes if you have a supported Automatic adapter and your car can handle it as a secondary compliment to your Automatic app experience. It is not meant to be a replacement for a dedicated streaming OBD device.
In our App Gallery, you'll find OBD Fusion under apps that are supported on the Automatic Pro adapter. OBD Fusion also works with our 2nd generation adapter, as do DashCommand & Harry's Lap Timer but on iOS only for the latter two. OBDFusion works with both our iPhone app and Android app. No streaming apps work with the Gen 1 or Lite adapter.

These apps are pretty neat as they bring some real time data experience to your drive. However, over the past year of a lot of troubleshooting, debugging, tweaking, and, in some cases, going back and forth with the dev teams from these app companies, we've learned a few things. Some people have had great experiences using one or more of these apps with Automatic, while others have had mediocre experiences, and yet others have had nothing but problems.

What we've discovered is that a lot of it boils down to the protocol of your car. That, coupled with the fact that the performance app is having to share the traffic coming from the OBD port with the core Automatic app means you could wind up with a performance app that doesn’t really perform.

About Protocols:

Some cars have slower protocols. For example, a 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 ST has the protocol of J1850VPW, which is pretty slow, running at a network speed of 10.4kbps. Most cars 2008 and later have a protocol called CAN that runs at 250-500kbps by comparison, which will generally perform better with Automatic + streaming apps.  You can read more about protocols here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-board_diagnostics#SAE_standards_documents_on_OBD-II

Having a slow protocol means that the data bus in the car often gets maxed out with other data traffic being used to run the car. When we ask for a reading, like RPM, we'll get it back as fast as the car can give it. But in some cases for J1850 VPW or ISO 9141-2 protocol cars this will be a couple seconds. The amount of time for each specific request to return will vary with the traffic on your data bus at that exact moment. This explains both the speed of return as well as the limited number of PIDs.

Automatic shares the total bandwidth available from the car between the fields that we require for our own application and third party apps like DC, OBDF, & Harry's.  To provide the best possible experience on our core app, we prioritize pulling the PIDs Automatic needs to run its services for you. What that means is that if you're looking for exotic fields and don't care about the ones we pull (basics like VSS, RPM, IAT, MAP, MAF, etc...), you might be able to get better refresh rates with another device. So, the bottom line is, if you have a slower protocol car and if this class of streaming apps is your number one priority, you might have better luck with a generic OBD reader that is optimized for that use rather than Automatic.
(Edited)

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