If there is one thing you are absolutely not supposed to be doing while driving, it’s playing with your phone. Not only is this a dangerous (and in many places illegal) practice, but also highly inefficient; if you’re trying to text while driving, for example, it’s pretty much impossible to do either very well.
Fortunately, there are a number of applications for Android that help you get things done while driving, and even maximize your driving experience. There are some that actually make driving fun. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Imagine you’re headed to a meeting, a date, or some type of gathering. You have people expecting you and it’s always polite to keep them in the loop on your progress. Making a call while driving just to give someone a status update seems a bit unnecessary, but texting while driving is also out of the question. Enter ETA Text.
Its sole purpose to text a specific phone number regarding your travel. It monitors your progress and automatically sends a text to a number you specify if you happen to be running late (or early) by a specified amount. You can also opt to keep your people updated manually with a single tap of your screen.
Drive Safe.ly by iSpeech bills itself as the app to stop distracted driving. Possibly the ultimate solution for texting while driving, Drive Safe.ly reads your text messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without you ever having to touch your device. This is one of the front-runners in using your phone safely while driving. With the Pro version, you can also reply to your messages by speaking to your device.
The interface is simple: an on/off button and a settings button. The free version reads up to 25 words per message in a female voice. With a Pro subscription, Drive Safe.ly reads up to 500 words per message and allows you to change to a male voice. More importantly, the pro subscription gives you the ability to send text responses by voice.
Price: Free (Pro subscription available) Requires: 1.5 and up Market Link:Drive Safe.ly Developer:iSpeech
Vlingo is arguably the most polished voice control app for your Android device. It calls itself a voice-powered Virtual Assistant and is current the closest we Android users can get to iPhone’s Siri. In addition to allowing you to make your device do just about anything just by talking, Vlingo offers a few driving-specific functions to help you in your travels.
Vlingo InCar Beta provides a voice-enabled version of your standard car home screen app. You can using the big Call, Text, and Navigate, buttons to easily access those functions of your device. There is also a SafeReader button that reads your incoming messages to you. The bottom third of the screen is dominated by the Tap & Speak button, which lets you give voice commands. One of the more awesome features of the Vlingo InCar dashboard is the ability to give voice commands without even looking at the device. All you have to do is say “Hey, Vlingo!” and it asks you what you’d like to do.
The official voice control app for your Android, Google Voice Search lets you do all the basics you’d expect. It’s not as polished as Vlingo and doesn’t have as many features as some of the alternatives, but it works reliably. It’s also integrated into the default Car Home dashboard on most Android devices.
TextNoMore puts an interesting spin on not texting while driving. With a focus on safety over fancy features, the TextNoMore app simply prevents you from accepting texts for a pre-specified amount of time. If someone does text you, an auto-response lets them know you’re driving at the moment.
The twist here is that this app is the first of its kind that gives you FREE Groupon “like” rewards just for making your trip a bit safer by not texting. If you’re looking to drive safely by avoiding texing while also earning rewards (everything from free coffees to 50% off your favorite stores), this app is the one you want.
As the icon might suggest, Voice Actions is Google’s standard Voice Search on steroids. Using Google’s own speech recognition engine, it provides a plethora of fancy features and cool tricks all accomplished just by speaking to your device. It’s got all the standards covered, including calling contacts and sending messages without touching your phone. In addition, it provides commands for everything from installing apps to reading you poetry. It also reads incoming messages out loud. Here is a sampling of the more interesting examples; all can be accomplished without taking your eyes off the road:
Waze makes driving social by connecting you with other drivers and sharing data about road conditions. This cool social driving and navigation app uses real-time data from drivers in your area to make you aware of driving conditions nearby. This can help you save lots of time on your commute and avoid lots of aggravation.
The app passively collects data about your travels if you simply leave it open while driving. If you want to be more interactive, you can report road conditions, accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along your route. Waze also provides access to localized driving groups, Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook integrations, and geo-gaming elements. The more people that use Waze, the better and more accurate the data it provides. At the time of this writing, Waze has several million installs.
Price: Free Requires: 1.5 and up Market Link:Waze Developer:Waze
This is another app backed by the support of an active community. Unless you’re in some type of futuristic flying car or electric vehicle, you will eventually need to stop for gas. The question is, where do you stop? Where will you get the best price? If only you could access the knowledge of your entire community to figure out who has seen the lowest prices.
This is where GasBuddy comes in. The app helps you find the best prices for gas in your area (as long as you live in the US or Canada). You can also use the app to report gas prices you find. Why do the users of the app bother? Well, for every gas price reported, you’ll earn points toward earning a prize: there’s a $250 gas card given away each week. That’s more than enough incentive.
Another fact of driving is that you will eventually need to stop. This involves parking and, if you’re not doing it in your own driveway, it can be a serious pain. With Parkdroid, most of the headache is handled for you.
It takes care of a few different facets of parking. If you’ve ever parked somewhere unfamiliar or just huge, you run the risk of forgetting how to get back to your ride. Parkdroid will remember where you parked and even help you get back to your spot. It can even give you walking directions back to your car. If you can’t find a spot, Parkdroid helps you locate the nearest lots and also alerts you when a spot opens up. If you’re in a metered parking lot, Parkdroid can also alert you when you need to run outside and feed the meter.
This app made my jaw drop. Using dynamic augmented reality and real-time collision detection, iOnRoad actually aims to make you a better driver. Fusing your Android device’s sensors and camera, iOnRoad provides you with visual radar day and night. Not only does it detect and display your distance from obstacles, but it also alerts you if you get into a dangerous situation. Plus, it provides objective skill feedback to help you improve your driving.
iOnRoad is extremely cool to watch in action as you’re driving. Its quick calculations of speed, distance, and potential for collision are awesome. What’s even cooler is that iOnRoad can run in the background and only pop up if there is actual danger of a collision – it’s almost like an antivirus program, but for crashes. iOnRoad helps improve driving skill and alertness, and is definitely worth the download. It’s free for a limited time so get it while it’s hot.
If you’re looking to track your mileage, this is one of the best apps to go with. It’s simple enough to not be overwhelming, with just enough features to get the job done. Mileage just had a 3.0 update which brought a few major changes, like tracking mileage across multiple vehicles and a streamlined import and export.
Whether for business or pleasure, Mileage gives you the tools to make sure you know how far you’ve gone. The app also helps you track when, where, and how you filled up so that you can optimize your fuel economy and maximize your efficiency.
Beat the Traffic aims to make you aware of traffic conditions before you even set out on your journey. In order to give you a hassle-free commute, Beat The Traffic gives you access to the latest road traffic conditions in your area so that you can find the best route to take and avoid traffic jams.
You can get realtime traffic maps, detailed incident reports, and access to 100′s of traffic camera images. One of the coolest features is the ability to predict the traffic. Using the forecast feature, you can get an idea of what the traffic will be like in the next few minutes, hours, or even days.
Even though using your phone is frowned upon and downright dangerous, there are a number of apps here that allow you to stay connected while keeping your eyes on the road. Whether you’re looking for efficiency, for fun, or just to be a better driver, there is an Android app for that. What apps help you when you’re out on the road?