Smartphone apps for driving

Some are really useful. Others make hot rod sounds through your speakers

There are lots of driving apps available for your smartphone. Many are helpful, but it’s very important that you never allow anything to distract you from keeping your eyes on the road. Never use an app that you feel will distract you. Distracted driving continues to be a serious threat to road safety.

Here are some apps that come up on most lists of best driving apps, and what the apps have to offer:

Google Maps

You may have already used other map apps like Apple Maps but Google Maps really seems to be the best one and keeps getting better. If you are logged into other Google services, the places you search will seamlessly show up on the mobile app. Google now owns Waze, an app we will discuss later in the column. Google Maps now integrates a lot of info from Waze which helps find routes around traffic problems.

Roadtrippers

Google Maps may be the best for getting from one place to another, but if you’re planning an extended road trip, Roadtrippers is an absolutely brilliant. It’s kind of like Yelp but for road tripping. Not only does it review hotels, campgrounds, points of interest, and food spots, but it has advanced route-planning tools that let you string all of them together. It basically gives you a complete picture of your drive. It can even estimate how much you’re going to spend on gas.

Waze

Waze isn’t the best app for everyday use and can be distracting, but if you get stuck in traffic, it’s one of the best tools. It works best in big cities where there is always an alternate route. It may sometimes take you on some strange paths, but it will get you there. If you’re using Google Maps you’re getting the best part of Waze already.

GasBuddy

There are a lot of apps out there to help you find gas stations. GasBuddy seems to be the most reliable. This app will help you find gas stations and the cheapest gas around, and you can apply filters if you need something specific like diesel. It does list gas stations in Whitehorse but would be especially helpful travelling in strange cities.

Carcorder

Carcorder allows you to use a mount and your smart phone as a dash cam. Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular accessories for cars. Recording all your travels means you have concrete evidence in case of an accident, but it also means you can capture some fantastic footage. It allows you to switch between multiple resolutions, track your location, and know when you’re driving too fast, but it’s not as comprehensive as a dedicated dash cam unit. It is much cheaper though.

iCarMode

This app allows you to use your dashboard mounted iPhone as a big-buttoned display, making it simple for you to activate a music player, call your friends, and check for places nearby. It’s sort of like Apple Car Play or Android Auto and will support apps such as Spotify, Audible, and other music apps. For older cars, it’s an ideal substitute for built-in dashboard systems that now come standard on most new vehicles.

iOnRoad

iOnRoad is an app that offers forward collision warning, detecting when a car in front has slammed on the brakes, before you’ve had a chance to see it yourself. It’s not a perfect substitute for keeping your eyes on the road because you would need to keep eyes on your phone’s screen. Using your phone’s camera and GPS, it detects how long it would take for you to collide with the vehicle in front of you. A color coding chart gives you an indication if you’re getting too close, ensuring you don’t tailgate by accident.

MileIQ Mileage Log and Tracker

This free app keeps track of the kilometres you drive for tax or other business reasons that require a log of your kilometres. Every time you drive your personal or work vehicle it tracks your mileage which may allow you to write off more expenses. It beats writing all this down in a journal that could get misplaced.

XLR8

This app will sound pretty silly to some but super cool to others. It allows you to connect your smartphone to the stereo in your vehicle and make your car sound like a muscle car, NASCAR engine, a Ford GT40, a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini supercar. The app responds to your acceleration, braking and cornering and makes the corresponding sounds come through your stereo.

Like all apps that are running continually in the background, these will use considerable battery power. Even just using Bluetooth to listen to music uses lots of battery power. It’s advisable to have your smartphone plugged in while in your vehicle. Use time in your vehicle as a chance to recharge, rather than drain your smartphone.

Remember again, never use any app that will distract you while driving. Pull over and park before fiddling with your phone.

Catch Driving With Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com or on Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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