When Motorola researcher Martin Cooper made the first call on a mobile phone in 1973 (to his rival at Bell Labs), chances are he had no idea of the heights his work would be taken to 40 years later.
Modern mobile phones are, for lack of a better phrase, computers in your pocket. High-resolution, incredibly accurate touch displays. Processor chips that put most home computers to shame. High-definition 3d games rivaling what dedicated games consoles have to offer. They can do so much more than just make calls.
Apps have been a major contributing factor to how well modern smartphones perform in the market, but with the advent of Apple’s game-changing iPhone the quality of a phone’s app collection has been increasingly important. Arguably, Apple is still on top. The popularity of the iPhone (and now iPad) is impossible for developers to ignore, meaning that the company’s App Store is thriving with great software by developers all around the world.
Deep within these hundreds-of-thousands of Apps, there is a small section dedicated to drivers. From ride-sharing communities to ways to track your fuel usage, there’s some fantastic and useful software out there. We’ve taken a look at some of the best, and have compiled this list of the best automotive/driving apps. Let’s get started.
We’ve all been there. You’re leaving an airport, theme park or maybe a music festival, faced with a vast ocean of cars, seemingly spanning miles and filled with cars of all shapes and sizes. You might have a good idea of the rough direction you came from after leaving your car but after a few minutes of walking, feet getting heavy, you start to doubt yourself.
“Am I going the right way?” You ask yourself as you pass a car you’re sure you didn’t see when you were on your way in. The whole process is exhausting and when you do find your car, you’re prepared to just pass out in the front seat. Cue Find My Car from Presselite.
“Actually, my brother (who is the Lead Developer at Presselite) and I wanted an application like that to see where we parked our car, so we developed it to be able to use it personally!” claimed Antoine Morcos, co-founder of Presselite, “Of course, we shared the application on the AppStore, but app ideas and concepts are inspired by our needs in daily life.”
When a user of Find My Car parks their vehicle, they can press a button on the app which uses the GPS abilities to mark the location on a map. They can then leave the car in confidence that they’ll be able to find it again when they return.
“To find your car again, you open the application and locate your last car position on the map. The distance to your car is displayed in real time as you walk down the street. The app is using Apple Maps, so it is very easy to visualize and locate the car.”
Not only does the app use the built-in mapping features on the phone, giving you the best route back to the car, you can also use an augmented-reality view (an in-app purchase). This mode will open your phone’s camera and show you on-screen directions of your car with a clear image of a red muscle-car in the direction of your own runabout.
When asked how the app has performed, Mr Morcos responded, “[The] Find My Car app has been released a few years ago, it was one of the first apps of its kind. The app has over 1 million downloads!”
A quick look at the app’s iTunes page will reveal it’s been featured in the Sunday Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal, hailed as one of the “Top 10 Apps That Will Change Your Life.”
For more information on Find My Car, click on the iTunes button below, or here for Presselite’s website.
Though the majority of the apps mentioned in this list are designed for people who already drive and own cars, that’s no reason we shouldn’t mention something to help people get to that stage in their life.
The App Store is jam-packed with driving test apps to help you with your theory test. They’re literally all over the place. Hundreds of them! This was one of the harder decisions to make for this list, but after reading some great reviews, iTheory’s 2013 app was a no-brainer. We got in touch with Christoph Moser from the company to answer a few of our questions.
“We are a company focusing on educational apps so it was is a logical step to develop an app for the theory test.” Said Moser about what inspired the app, “We have also developed a free educational app for the hazard perception test.”
On the app’s iTunes page, the company proudly proclaims that the app includes “all the OFFICIAL Driving Standards Agency (DSA) UK questions…” and that it’s “… the perfect tool for preparing for your car or motorcycle theory test!”
According to Moser, “Since we have published [the app] nine months ago 250,000 Apps have been downloaded,” and it definitely seems that their users are happy with it. One review on the App Store commented that the software “gives you a good scope of where you are going wrong and therefore aids improvement.”
Another review stated that it is an “Amazing app – really surprised with the detail and similarities to real test.”
If you’d like to find out more, head to the app on iTunes by clicking the button below.
“I’ve kept a fuel log for years and wanted a better way to capture and view the data.” David Barnard of AppCubby told me when asked what inspired him to build his fuel-tracker app, GasCubby.
Much like theory test apps, the App Store has become full of fuel-checkers. Generally, these apps allow you to tell the software every time you top up your car, and this information can be used to help with accounting, especially useful if you drive your car for work and need to keep track of expenses. It’s not just business users who can get something out of GasCubby, though, as Barnard told me, “Honestly, anyone who owns a vehicle [can use the app]. Though tracking fuel economy and maintenance may seem like a chore, it can save lots of money by keeping your vehicle running efficiently and prevent expensive breakdowns.”
In a move familiar to iOS app users, GasCubby is offered in two versions, a free version and one which costs £1.99. From what I can tell, the only difference is the presence of ads on the app. This is a popular way to finance free apps, and it seems to have worked. “The paid version of Gas Cubby has ranged in price from $10 back in 2008, all the way to 99¢ a few times while on sale. The app has accumulated over 100k sales. Gas Cubby FREE (and Gas Cubby Lite, which has now been discontinued) have been downloaded by over 500k iOS users.”
If you’d like to give GasCubby a run for it’s money (pun intended!) you can find it on iTunes:
If you’ve ever been on YouTube, chances are you’ll have regularly stumbled over videos filmed from the dashboard of a Russian car showing crashes, near-misses and sometimes angry Russians brandishing swords and baseball bats. Now you have a chance to join in with your very own dashboard cam via an app (hopefully not with the sword or baseball bat)!
The Witness Driving app essentially provides you with a dashcam, which (when combined with a dashboard mount – available for around £15) will be able to record any scary situations you come into whilst on the road. Not only this, but the app also includes note-taking features to quickly get down details of drivers involved in an accident, any witnesses and also the ability to take photos of any damage.
When we asked Andy, the app developer from Snoring Dog Ltd who it was designed for he answered “Anyone worried about ‘crash-for-cash’ scams or being blamed for an accident that isn’t their fault”. He went on to give further examples of how it could be useful, “It could be used by parents – asking their teenage children to use the app to demonstrate that they are driving safely. We’ve also developed a prototype that’s aimed at insurers and fleet managers.”
It’s easy to see how an app like Witness Driving could be useful when it comes to making claims and disputing stories coming from the other side. Indeed, Andy goes on to tell us that one of the inspirations for the app came from “Sitting in the small claims court listening to the two sides describe the same accident in completely different ways!”
If you’d like to give it a go, click the appropriate link below to find it on iTunes or Google Play. Keep in mind you’ll still need a phone mount, which can be found in most electronics and mobile phone stores. For support or more information go to the developer’s website.
A few pages ago, I mentioned the Find My Car app. What happens if you can’t find a parking space, though? That’s where ParkatmyHouse steps in.
An online community of property owners and eager car-parkers, the company lists places that can both be booked instantly or in advance.
The app, however, only handles the instant bookings, according to Alex Stephany, CEO of ParkatmyHouse. “People who own the property can set the price,” he told me, “so that can be between 50-70% cheaper [than public car parks].”
If you’re interested in putting your own parking space up for rent, you can find a price guide which will give you an idea of how much you can make from your space. It’s free to list through the website and the company takes a 15% commission.
Not bad, right? But this isn’t what we’re really here to talk about, as you can only do this through their website.
The app is incredibly easy to use, and makes the whole process of finding a parking space as stress-free as possible.
Tap in a post code or area name, tell them when you want to park and check availability. There are over 50,000 spaces across the UK, though they can mostly be found in areas where parking is at a premium, or generally a problem like major cities.
If you’re ever in a bind and need to find a parking space (for a football game, for example), don’t hesitate to sign up to ParkatmyHouse. Get your car parked and save money at the same time!
You’re coming home, suffering a long sleepless journey on the train. You have a change to make, and you know that you won’t make it. Your train pulls into the station as you see your connection pull away. What do you do? The next train is an hour away, and you’re stranded on the platform.
If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you are in luck. BlaBlaCar is a lift-sharing community which allows members to advertise their journeys and make money back on their fuel costs by offering empty seats to other members.
It really is that simple! “We connect drivers who are doing long journeys to passengers who are going the same way,” said Vanina Schick, Brand & Content Manager for BlaBlaCar. “The Price is fixed based on the itinerary and the type of car you’re driving.”
“Last-minute train fares can be expensive. Not the case with this service,” adds Schick, “Trains can be over £100 last minute for a London-Manchester journey. Using BlaBlaCar is always £15 for the same journey.”
So that’s great for the passenger, but what advantage does the driver have by using the company’s service?
Essentially, it means that you can make back most of your fuel costs, as Schick continues, “Offer your ride on the website, and people can find you and offer to join you to share the cost!”
Don’t expect to make a profit, though, as the system is designed to only help offset your fuel costs, not to make money.
If you’d like to give it a go click on one of the links below or head on over to www.blablacar.com for more information.
This isn’t as much of an every-day app as the others on this list, but it’s worth mentioning if only because it’s starting to replace other, more specialised equipment.
“Dynolicious caters to anyone who is an automotive enthusiast. It doesn’t matter if they have an exotic sports car, an antique, or a city car, if they love their car Dynolicious is made for them.”
Jonathan Sweet is the Creative Director for Bunsentech, the Connecticut-based developer of Dynolicious. We sent him an email to ask him a few questions.
“We created Dynolicious because we’re petrol heads. We love our cars, but we’re also fans of technology. Combining the two is natural for us, and with the capabilities of modern smart phones it’s really a perfect fit. It’s pretty amazing what your smart phone can do when it’s loaded with a few smart apps.”
Dynolicious uses the motion sensors in your phone (accelerometers) to track lots of lovely automotive information. G-forces, 0-60 times and more are all presented on-screen alongside graphs and stats.
Not really one for the daily commuters, but if you love a good track day, already have an iPhone and need something to keep track of your lap times and other stats, head on over to the App Store and buy this app. The latest “Fusion” version is available for £6.99.
Do you agree with these? Do Are there any we’ve missed out which should really belong on this list? Let us know in the comments!