Smart phones changed the technology game. Before Steve Jobs showed the first iPhone from within his signature black turtleneck, the trend was for phones to get smaller and smaller. Once Mr. Jobs showed us the potential, we shifted 180 degrees, making phones larger and larger.
We also started seeing a new world of apps. App developers became a thing, creating specific bits of software that met, sometimes, only a niche need. And they were making good money doing it.
Now that we’re seeing smart cars become a thing, connecting to the Internet and featuring large touch screens we have to ask, are we going to start seeing apps for our cars? In 2013, Ford already gave access to app developers through their new developer program. But what kind of apps could we see as this gains popularity?
Sure, all cars have audio systems now, and most new cars will integrate with your phone to access your library of tunes. But how many times do you find yourself being envious of the interface or layout of that radio in your friend’s new car? If that interface was simply the UI of an app, you could easily download the app that your friend uses.
Obviously there are some games you shouldn’t play while driving. An impassioned game of Angry Birds while stuck in traffic may inspire some poor decisions. But there are plenty of games you could play without looking at the screen. How about an app that uses your location to determine where you are and what landmarks are around in order to play a game of I-Spy with you?
As with the radio, there are many times simply having the ability to access something we already have through a new interface could be enough to breath new life into an aging car. The same could be said of the environmental controls. And more than a new interface, what if the app could access local weather and automatically adjust your settings based on preferences you have set.
At this point, many of our cars still tell us something is wrong but illuminating some confusing hieroglyphic on our dash. Sometimes we’ll actually take it in to have it checked but, more often than not, we ignore it and, eventually, throw a piece of tape over it. After all we’ve heard so many times that there was nothing wrong, just some fuse or something.
An app could fix that. Instead of having a mechanic plug in a machine to read and translate the code, the app could do it for us, showing us the problem and connecting us to YouTube videos of how to fix it.
And that’s only if something is wrong. What if you just want the ability to update the fuel to air ratio in the cylinder (within safety limits) or maybe adjust your car’s idle. You could see actual levels of fluids as opposed knowing when your car starts to run a bit warm.
While many of these features already exist in one way or another, consumers don’t use them often because the interfaces change year to year. Apps give the driver the ability to choose the interface they’re comfortable with and would actually see these feature being used.