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Smartphone apps perform car-related tasks

You shouldn't use your smartphone when you drive, but you can put it to use for a number of car-related tasks.
November 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
You shouldn't use your smartphone when you drive. But you can put it to use to help you with a number of car-related tasks using apps.

As more and more people are using smartphones, they're also adding useful apps to them. Some can be a big help when it comes to your car.

For example, the free Gas Buddy app will look for stations near where you are to help you compare prices. Whether you're near home or on the road.

If you drive an electric car, there are apps to help find juice for those, too. ChargePoint is a network of public charging stations. The app will not only show you where they are, but whether a particular unit is currently in use or available.

And while code-readers that diagnose check-engine lights have been around for a long time, there's one that lets you use your smartphone for the task.

The $80 Actron U-Scan plugs into the diagnostic port under your dashboard, then relays the info to the U-Scan app via Bluetooth, and helps simplify the information. Further help is available via their website.

And there's an app that will help if you're looking to buy a car. "Vinny" will scan the bar-code VIN (get it?) and instantly give you information about the car, including its projected value. The Vinny app is free.

With more and more people using smartphones these days and getting used to lots of apps, it would only make sense that the auto industry itself is getting in on car apps.

Electric cars were the first to get them, helping owners do things like check in on charge status and pre-program the cabin temperature. But Honda has brought out an app for a much more mainstream car: the 2013 Accord.

"The challenge for us has been able to enable that kind of connectivity for people and make it accessible, but at the same time, keep it safe for them and operational through the controls of the car," said Charles Koch, manager of HondaLink.

You pair the smartphone app and your phone to the car. You've now customized what the Accord's HondaLink system will do.

The beauty of this? Smartphone technology advances at a fast pace, faster than most of us replace our cars.

"We can bring content that's established in one year and put it in vehicles that were produced years before," said Koch.

The Honda app is available on three of their cars now, and more will get it in the future.

It's a future where your smartphone can make driving a little bit smarter too.


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