While using a mobile while driving is illegal unless it's on hands free (and there is a school of thought says that it's unsafe to talk on a mobile while driving at all), modern smartphones can be very useful to drivers. Everybody knows about maps, so let's take a look at some other interesting apps to help motorists.
I=iPhone, A=Android, W=Windows Phone, B=Blackberry
AA Parking (I,A)This is essentially a searchable database of parking places. You can look for car parks near where you are or get organized and enter a destination to find parking places where you're going. The app shows prices (where applicable) and whether or not the spaces are covered and/or attended.
Trapster (I, A, W, B)This is an outstanding example of using technology to make it more convenient for people to help each other like they always have. In the old days, if a driver saw a road hazard up ahead, they'd flash their lights to alert the people behind, now they just upload it to Trapster (along with various sorts of law-enforcement cameras).
DailyRoads Voyager (A)Essentially a black box for cars to provide evidence in the event that the smartphone's owner has an accident. Basically it sits on your dashboard and films through your windscreen on a loop. While it's filming, it's also monitoring and recording your speed and location (via GPS). You choose what to keep by tapping on the screen.
As a piece of completely unrelated trivia, the black boxes in planes are actually orange. They're formally known as flight data recorders or accident data recorders and nobody actually knows for sure how they came to be known as black boxes. Contrary to urban myth it had nothing to do with being invented by a person with the surname Black.
Trip Advisor (I,A,W)Not technically a car-related app, but it certainly can be useful for people on the road, particularly those with children. While travellers with families will probably try to book ahead for accommodation, Trip Advisor may be handy as plan B for emergencies. It's also a great way to find places to eat and has plenty of other handy information, such as details of local attractions.
IonRoad (I,A)May be a terrible pun, but it's a relatively new app with a lot of potential. Going by the user reviews, there are still some teething problems with the free version, although overall the reviews seem to be more positive than negative. The very affordable paid-for version gets a higher rating. Both versions essentially do the same job, which is to warn drivers when they're in danger of hitting another vehicle. As well as being useful for learner drivers who are still learning to judge distances, it's vastly more accurate than the human eye in low-visibility conditions. Although it's intended to prevent collisions between cars, the technology will also work for other similar hazards, which could be very useful for those who have to drive on country roads and have to negotiate occasional fallen trees and stray sheep.
Find My Car (I,A) and Sally Park (I)These two apps essentially do the same job. They help you find where you left your car. The main difference is that Find My Car is free, whereas Sally Park charges a small fee for a neater interface. Basically you train yourself to fire up either of these apps whenever you leave your car and, assuming it's still in the same place when you want to find it again, either of these apps will reunite you with your wheels. They may not be lifesavers, but they can certain save massive amounts of time and many arguments.
Top Gear (I,A)Some say that it's an icon of British culture and that it's refreshingly frank and uniquely quirky, all we know is if you don't have a clue what the opening to this paragraph was all about you at least need to watch one episode. Rather like the programme, this app serves basically no practical purpose whatsoever and divides opinions over whether it's entertaining or just annoying. While free to download and use, it's probably best kept for places where you can get wifi.
Author Bio:After almost 15 years working for various financial service companies, Kit MacLean escaped to work as a freelance writer and translator. She has a keen interest in cars and motoring and likes to keep her own set of wheels in tip top condition. Although she's not a big fan of cleaning, so typically uses a local car valeter to do that bit for her! Well, why get your hands dirty when you can put your feet up and let someone else do it for you?