Rodney Dangerfield once had this to say about his dog: “He’s so lazy, he don’t chase cars. He just sits on the curb and takes down license plate numbers.”
I don’t think he was lazy. He was using his head — utilizing available information technology — just like many of us are doing now, by downloading all those new apps for iPhones and other smartphones.
By far, the most popular automotive-related apps, all concern navigation and/or finding stuff. Which doesn’t surprise me, we’re always lost somehow.
Consider G-Park, which will direct you back to your parked car. In case you’re wondering there is no G-Pants, which might direct you back to where you’ve forgotten your pants.
Other popular “finder” apps are Trapster, which helps you find speed traps, and the Hortons Finder, which helps you find, well, Tim Hortons coffee. As far as I know, the two are not related.
Toronto Traffic is an app that allows you quickly view all the city’s traffic cameras, to help you plan your commute. It was so successful, you’ll now also find Montreal Traffic, Vancouver Traffic, Calgary Traffic, and Quebec Traffic.
TomTom and NAVIGON are the biggest-selling navigation apps on the iTunes app store, and unlike most apps, which are free or less than 10 bucks, these are on the pricey side, at $59.99 and $39.99, respectively.
Of course, the iPhone can be a good navigator and friend to car lovers, because it contains both a GPS system and an accelerometer.
The latter measures forward and lateral G forces, so it’s possible to measure acceleration, speed, distance travelled, engine power, etc. If you feel the need to do that, consider apps like Dynolicious or GMeter. Judging by some of the comments from users, they work well enough for enthusiasts, but probably wouldn’t satisfy GM or NASA.
There are also a large number of apps that will help you track gas consumption, expenses, and maintenance requirements. Consider Gas Cubby, Car Minder Plus, or Accufuel. You can go as deep as your obsessive-compulsive heart desires, with exportable spread sheets, graphs, etc., or you can just set it to remind you to change the oil at least once during your lifetime.
There are also apps for vehicle shopping, like the Car and Driver’s Buyers Guide, although be warned that all the ones I saw feature only American information, so no Canadian models, pricing, or metric-speak.
A few weeks ago, we talked about Canadian-based vehiclegateway.com, which is not technically an app, but a website designed for phone browsers, allowing you to search for used vehicles and access third-party vehicle history reports.
There are also obviously many entertainment apps out there with automotive themes. The game Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has been recently released. But the number one free iPhone app right now is the Volkswagen Touareg Challenge, which is a blend of game, information package, and marketing message about the all-new 2011 Touareg.
I’ll leave you to your own devices to decide which automotive apps are for you. Apple, Blackberry, Nokia, Palm, etc., all have app stores, and there are many more that can be found by searching the web.
Because most apps are free or extremely cheap, most people try a bunch before settling on the ones that work well and/or satisfy their particular needs and wants. So if you’re not there yet, what’s stopping you? Let’s all get appy.
Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for over 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.