I think we’ve all firmly come to grips with the advancements of technology. I know Freeman Grapevine has certainly opened our arms to technology. Ever since the release of the personal computer in the early 80’s, they’ve only gotten smaller, faster and more useful. In fact, when I see someone who doesn’t have a smart phone I wonder how they made it this far without one?
For those of us who do have smart phones and are information junkies, like myself, I give you the top 5 automotive apps fore your new, or used Buick, or GMC that no driver should be without.
For just $2.99, iPhone users can download the iGasUp application and have updated gas station locations and fuel prices at their fingertips. The app gives users the 10 closest gas stations based on the phone’s current location. iGasUp boasts a network of more than 110,000 filling stations across the U.S. Once a driver uses his or her iPhone to pull up the closest 10 gas stations, the information can be sorted by cheapest or closest. The prices are updated frequently and each has a time stamp that indicates the freshness of the price. Users can then plot their course to the filling station of their choice by using the interactive Maps found on the iPhone.
Trapster displays your location on a map using the iPhone’s WiFi location capabilities. Reported speed traps, which users enter into the Trapster’s network database, pop up along your route. Trapster’s settings allow users to setup their iPhones to give voice alerts of approaching speed traps and the dynamic radar feature compensates for a driver’s speed and direction in radar to relay accurate warnings. Signal cameras and police traps show up on the display as icons for easy recognition.
With a network of more than 330,000 users worldwide, nearly two-thirds of those being iPhone owners, the Trapster network has reported more than 5 million speed traps worldwide as of November 2011. It seems that Trapster has replaced the CB radio as the best method of radar detection — with the exception of illegal radar detection devices. And it’s free, too.
Here are some of the things that INRIX Traffic can do (even without the $24.99 upgrade):
- Incidents: A list of traffic events, updated via the Internet, which may affect the route you plan to take. These include accidents, crowds at major sporting events, convention traffic and other tie-ups reported by members of the INRIX Traffic community.
- Comparative Traffic: A map of the local area with traffic density marked out in color-coded lines that tell you which routes have light traffic and which routes are bumper to bumper.
- Predictions: A timeline that allows you to project traffic for the 15-minute interval during which you plan to be traveling.
There are several other traffic apps available for the iPhone, but INRIX Traffic has a solid community of users reporting conditions and, if you use the app, you join that community too. If what you see on the road doesn’t agree with what you see on the app, you can report the mistake with the click of a single on-screen button.
The free GoPoint app works with the GoPoint cable (which costs $100, but can be purchased online for less) to plug into your car’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port. This is the sort of thing that your local mechanic will do using a piece of equipment that cost thousands of dollars, but your iPhone can do it for the cost of a cable and the time you spend downloading an app. Some people would consider that a bargain.
What sort of information can the GoPoint app extract from the OBD port? Well, if you already know that your car is experiencing some kind of problem — for instance, if the Check Engine light is flashing — the GoPoint app can give you the Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) for it. These are standardized codes and the GoPoint app will define them for you in plain English. Unless you’re a mechanic, you might not be able to deal with the problem itself, but you’ll know what to expect when you take your car into the shop and can verify that your mechanic isn’t just inventing expensive problems that will cost you a fortune to fix.
Oh, yes — once you’ve purchased the GoPoint cable, there are additional apps that work with it, not just from GoPoint but from third-party developers, so that you can do things like monitor your fuel economy in real time.
Parker for iPhone
This app gives you a rooftop view of the local street situation and tells you where the parking places are. With the cooperation of the Departments of Transportation in several major cities, including New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and Boston, the San Francisco company Streetline has installed electronic sensors in selected neighborhoods to detect whether parking places are occupied or empty. This data is broadcast to a central location and can be accessed via the Parker app.
Parker for iPhone has a wealth of features, as well as a built-in tutorial to show you what they are and how to use them. They include the ability to choose a city and an area within that city that has parking sensors, a map showing a numeric count of the number of open spaces within a specific area, color coded icons on that map to point you to blocks with the largest number of open spaces, and a special display showing the fee charged by meters or commercial parking garages at the place where you want to park. In some instances, you can even pay for parking directly from the app. And once you’ve started a meter ticking, Parker will not only time it for you and remind you when it’s about to run out, but will use your iPhone’s built-in GPS to predict whether you have enough time to walk back to your car before the meter expires. If you drive much in major metropolitan areas, Parker can make your life easier and save you from a lot of frustration when you need to get out of your car and walk.
We’ve come a long way from the personal computer taking up and entire desk to fitting in the palm of our hands. Sometime I wonder what I’d ever do without my magic little phone.
There are thousands of beneficial apps out there. Can you suggest any others to Freeman Grapevine that would make our customer’s driving lives easier?