I remember when turning 16 and the prospect of getting my driver’s license occupied my every waking moment. I would often catch myself thinking about racing down the streets with my friends. When I finally got to sit behind the wheel — legally — it felt like heaven. The pleasurable driving experience with the window rolled down and the wind in my face was more than I could ask for. That is until I got older and began to realise that there was more to driving than turning the steering.
Automobile companies started coming out with cars packed with so much smart technology, it made my car feel dumb. From better handling features to collision prevention sensors, satellite navigation capabilities, malfunction detection tools, etc. I felt shortchanged and this kickstarted my search for a solution that would avail me of the ultimate driving experience without having to shell out asinine amounts of money for a factory fitted automobile variant.
Apps have changed the way we experience life and have integrated into every sphere of our existence, so it only made sense that my search would start there. I found out a few apps available on online app stores that helped me get that level of security, efficiency and pleasure I wanted whenever I was driving but there was only one problem — using these apps was burning a hole in my pocket. Thankfully, there are also a plethora of free apps that elevate our driving experience and can deliver the same level of satisfaction as their paid app options.
With the increase in cars plying our roads, complex road networks and an increased focus on effective, practical and safe driving, these apps are more of a neccessity. So if you can’t afford a top of the line vehicle but still want to know what it feels like to drive a “smart” car without actually having to buy one, here are a few apps that helped me get there.
1. Parkopedia Parking
While driving can be fun, finding a spot to park can often be frustrating. Parkopedia aims to take the frustration out of parking. It is the largest parking app on the globe. With this app you will be able to find and compare millions of parking spots, check their pricing, identify which ones can be booked, which ones accept credit cards, coins etc.
If you’re not quite sure where you want to park, it can help you discover the nearest available space and give you directions. Parkopedia is also factory fitted in some car brands from the likes of Ford, Jaguars and Land Rovers with voice recognition control so you can use it without taking your eyes off the road.
2. Speed Camera and Traffic
Have you ever felt a little GTA or Need For Speed coming on whenever you get behind the wheel? You probably just want to tear down every road at top speed while eluding law enforcement. Radar detectors have for a long time being the difference between driving at top speed and getting a ticket. I should know, I’ve used some of the best radar detectors available.
The Speed Camera Traffic app has provided a solution for those who would prefer not to carry around a physical device especially since it is illegal in some states. With this app you can never fall into law enforcement traps or be detected by police radars. It helps you locate speed camera installation points and offers real time updates of police radars and speed trap locations. It also helps you compare your current speed with the speed limit of whatever road you’re on in real time, while also self updating if there are any speed limit changes.
3. Navier HUD 3
This app is perfect for those who consider taking their eyes off the road for any reason a distraction. It projects important readings such as your average speed and distance travelled onto your windscreen using the light from the screen of your smartphone. Navier HUD is also flexible to use as evidenced in its display personalisation feature. You can choose what you want to be displayed and where you want it. The display on the windscreen is also transparent, ensuring that your view of the road ahead is never obstructed in any way.
4. Navmii GPS
If you’ve ever lost your way while driving then you understand how useful Satellite navigation is to every driver. The problem with Sat Navs though is that they can be can be burdensome, both in size and are expensive and time consuming to install and setup. With Navmii, you have all the goodies of a Sat Nav in the palm of your hands — or in your smartphone to be more precise. The app is unique because with it you can save maps offline and still have functional GPS capabilities for when you are searching for a location. This is especially helpful if you find yourself in an area without internet connectivity. It also comes with a fun celebrity voice track feature if you’re into that sort of thing.
5. RoadAR Smart
Some of the most amazing and tide turning coverages have been recorded by unintended sources. Whether it’s a crime in progress, an accident or a rare natural occurrence, dash cameras are a huge source of such unintended visual capture, but they are usually not cheap to purchase or setup. The RoadAR Smart gives your phone all the powers of a dash cam without burning through your wallet. With RoadAR Smart, you have that extra layer of security and assurance that whatever happens — to you or someone else — you’ve probably got proof on camera.
As electric cars have proliferated the market, so have car charging stations. However, finding the right charging station or any charging station at all can be more than you bargained for. Plugshare is essentially a huge collection of over 40,000 charging stations across the country shown in map display format.
It’s interactive capability means that it can search hundreds of charging station options for you depending on your real time location while also letting you know which charge locations are compatible with your car and if there are any unoccupied charging points left. Plugshare, for electric car users is a no-brainer, because it can be the difference between a fully charged car and a very expensive tow.
7. XLR 8
To be honest, this app doesn’t really solve any problems or contribute to elevating the driving experience, however, if it’s a little fun and laughter you’re looking for, you’re sure to get it.
XLR8 is mostly for people whose lifestyles, schedules and responsibilities restrict them from driving the car of their dreams — and by that I mean cars in the ranks of the Ford GT40, Lamborghini or other V-8 Engine muscle cars. This app lets you give your modest electric or hybrid car the roar of a muscle engine. Just install the app and connect your phone to your stereo and you can make your car sound like a monster. True, your vehicle may not move like a super car, but it can definitely talk like one. So use this app to intimidate other road users, have some fun and let it rip!
Running out of gas on a journey is not fun, especially if yoy are out in the middle of nowhere or you are hurrying for some important meeting. Fuelio is a free Android app that helps you understand your fuel consumption history so that you never have to run out of gas.
Just input how much gas you’ve filled up and your mileage readings. The app will work out your fuel economy and after a few fill ups, it will provide you with actionable information via easy to understand charts and graphics.
9. Are we nearly there yet?
Going on a roadtrip or a vacation with your partner can be a wonderful time to spend with each other — except you’ve got kids and you’re travelling with them. As much as you love your kids, they can make your journey a nightmare, always fussing over nothing, asking endless questions, bursting into tears and causing you to pull over at every stop to get a bite or use the convenience.
This app will help to keep them busy throughout the journey no matter how long. It is packed with fun games and trivia based on your real time location, jokes and lots more to make sure that they stay happy and you get to keep your sanity throughout the journey. You may need to buy an iPhone or an iPad though as it only works on the iOS platform.
We all have so much going on in our lives that sometimes we forget to carry out basic responsibilities that will help the rest of our day go smoothly. Tasks such as putting out food for your pet, making that mandatory smoothie — or checking your car regularly.
It is easy to forget to check your car to make sure that it is in the best shape possible. The miGarage app will serve as your automobile maintenance reminder. With this app you will never forget to check your car ever again. You’ll just need to fill in your car details and set up reminders for when you need to carry out a car check such as checking the engine oil, evaluating the pressure of the tyres, etc. If you’ve got a lot on your plate, this app will make sure that regular car checks are always on the menu.