Car apps: In a few years, we'll wonder how we did without them, just as we have with smartphones and apps since Apple introduced the iPhone seven years ago (January 9, 2007, in fact). These apps can be used either to control basic car functions or do something while in the car, such as finding a pizza place wherever you are, or ordering the pizza.
Yes, you can already find and order a pizza from your phone, but you shouldn't be doing that while driving. These apps aim to make the act of finding and ordering a pizza—or finding a parking place, or keeping up with social media—safer and perhaps even easier from your car than it is from your phone in the car. They represent a sea change in how people use their cars—not just for simple mobility, but for getting things done while mobile—and they were the biggest car-tech news out of CES 2014.
Your TV has a remote, and your car should, too
Just last night I was walking to my car after work when suddenly the car next to mine started with a roar—without anyone in it. I jumped, and then I realized, Oh: This is the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it has the UConnect remote-control app that we tried last fall. As I clicked a button on my key fob to unlock my car—so '90s—the guy who owned the Grand Cherokee had started and unlocked the car remotely, and he just jumped in and left while I was still fumbling around for my seat belt. Even if you don't care about newfangled infotainment systems or whiz-bang safety features, you'd probably love to have a remote-control app like this for your car.
They're trickling out, though slower than I expected. I tried the AcuraLink app on the MDX and RLX last fall and had a jolly time not just locking and unlocking the car, but messing with the doors, windows, and tires so I could see the app tell me whether something was open or in need of inflation. It could even tell me what my fluid levels were. I can't be lazy and not check my oil anymore. The app does it for me. But Acura offers it just for those two cars currently.
At CES I met with Ford's Bill Frykman, part of the team that brought out the MyFord Mobile app to help manage the charge on the company's small herd of plug-in vehicles. In addition to lock/unlock and climate control, the app even lets you publish your charging and driving data to social media so you can show off how green you're being with your car.
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