These 9 Smartphone Apps are Turning Your Car into a Command Center
Apps are everywhere. According to the Pew Research Center, over two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones and almost half have tablets. As these wonder-devices and the software that power them become more a part of our society, other industries are taking notice, so much so that it seems like everything in our lives is getting "smarter," from our baby monitors to our stereos and even the humble refrigerator.
So it might not be a surprise that auto manufacturers have taken notice. At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, Ford plans to announce their app integration plan for the next 20 years.
But if you don’t want to wait that long, here are nine mobile apps available now that can help turn any ride into a "connected" car and heighten your daily driving experience through enhanced comfort, convenience and safety. (All are both iPhone and Android compatible unless otherwise indicated.)
Chicago Auto Show App
Get to know the 2016 Chicago Auto Show as you cruise in on Lake Shore. This easy-to-use innovation includes a daily schedule of events, show floor map, lists of displayed vehicles, interactive videos and blog posts. Downloading the app gives users the opportunity to register to win a new Buick Encore.
Beat the Traffic
If you commute every day (especially on the Kennedy Expressway) you are likely already aware of traffic patterns. Beat the Traffic does one better than watching the news report before leaving the house. It delivers real-time crowd-sourced traffic info personalized to your daily drive. A few glances at Beat the Traffic and you'll know which route to take, current traffic flows, estimated travel times and if there are any incidents along the way. It could save you hours of frustration, all for free.
While new cars you see at the Chicago Auto Show feature backup cameras as standard equipment, why not have a forward-facing one as well? Using your phone's camera to monitor your distance from vehicles ahead, iOnRoad issues visual and audible alerts if you're getting too close. For just $1 (or free for Android in its basic version) this app could literally save lives. It also serves as a budget alternative to the much more comprehensive automatic braking systems built into many contemporary cars.
To have that office brunch or family dinner delivered with minimum downtime, order from your car with the Seamless food delivery and takeout service. This intuitive app draws from a huge database of restaurants in "Seamless cities" (of which Chicago is one), including up-to-date menus and user reviews. Payment info is conveniently stored and there's 24/7 customer service.
YouTube is awash with dramatic dashcam footage, and iPhone owners can now join in the fun with Carcorder. For just $1.99 plus the cost of a dashboard phone mount, Carcorder — which integrates video recording, GPS, route correction, over-speed warning and augmented reality — could save you from speeding tickets and provide invaluable evidence in case of an accident.
You can expect more hyper-efficient hybrids offered from auto manufacturers for 2016, but gas prices are a major concern. With prices varying considerably from station to station, the free GasBuddy app can steer you toward considerable savings. Using crowd-sourced gas price info (submitting gas prices gives users a chance to win a $100 gas card each day), GasBuddy lets drivers find gas bargains. With options to search by current location, city or zip code, you'll find it helpful in town or on a road trip.
At the Chicago Auto Show, you’ll notice that almost every vehicle features a built-in dashboard screen and control system. For older cars without this tech, start with iCarMode ($1.99 for iPhone) and Car Dashdroid (free for Android). These useful substitutes allow for safe and simple operation of other apps from your dash-mounted phone. Offering clean, easy-to-read and big-buttoned interfaces, these apps will make the use of any other connected car apps much easier.
Costly, dedicated GPS devices are becoming antiquated as major manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom join the likes of Google Maps and Waze in offering convenient and free apps. The benefit? These maps track your ride in real-time, taking traffic, construction and other hazards into account and appear to be, literally and figuratively, the way forward.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is perhaps the ultimate in home temperature control, with the ability to track your habits and preferences without manual programming. Its free app allows you to monitor and control your Nest from the road, and its Auto-Away feature will detect your absence and switch to a more energy-efficient mode automatically.
Know before you go: 2016 Chicago Auto Show
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Weekday discounts: Special rates for Mon.-Fri. visitors
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Integrated app: Download the Chicago Auto Show app for more information
Advance purchase: Buy tickets online for convenience
Indoor/outdoor drives: Try out the latest vehicles
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