Mobile Apps and the Future of the Automobile

Mobile Apps and the Future of the Automobile

A couple of weeks ago, we featured a post on popular mobile apps for summer vacations, which included links to a number of navigation apps.  In the interest of full disclosure, we should add that we undertook the research for that post in anticipation of a vacation of our own, which involved a long and pleasant road trip.  We were well aware of the dangers inherent in using mobile apps while driving, of course, but we nevertheless found the mobile app to be a welcome addition to the driving experience.

We don’t mean to suggest that we were checking Facebook updates while trying to keep our eyes on the highway, but various navigation, radio, hotel, and cheap gas apps were really quite helpful in getting us from point A to point B.  As it happens, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Granted, driverless cars aren’t available to everyone—not yet, at any rate—but there is mounting evidence that the next mobile app platform won’t be a new brand of smartphone, but the automobile.  Here are some of the possibilities for mobile applications in your family vehicle:

  • Diagnostics:  Whether the Obama administration’s edicts on fuel economy standards stick or not, it’s clear that consumers are looking for ways to make a gallon of gas take you quite a bit farther.  The Nissan Leaf, the first mass-produced electric car, already has an app that keeps tabs on battery life and temperature.  It’s only a matter of time before our car gives us a phone call when it’s in need of wiper fluid or an oil change.
  • Voice control:  Ford recently launched the SYNC applink, which allows for unprecedented voice control over other apps.  This is both a convenient and long-awaited safety feature.
  • Passive commands:  Thomas Lee of Xconomy envisions a car hooked up to real-time traffic updates and, naturally, GPS, which can “play relaxing music” if it happens to notice you’re stuck in a traffic jam.  Other possibilities include automatic dialing of emergency services in the event of an accident, for example.

With the mobile app market exploding as it is, developers may have to consider adapting themselves to new and unusual platforms, since it appears that mobile apps will be hitting the road in earnest.

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