There’s no getting around it. From the home front, to the campus, to the workplace and beyond, technology is changing every aspect of our lives. And with the advent of smart phones, technology is even redefining the way we drive. Although, too much technology just might drive us to distraction, having a smarter car is clearly helpful on the highway. Here’s a look at 7 of the better ways your smartphone can enhance your driving experience by raising your car’s I.Q.

1. GPS technology

Although dedicated personal navigation devices (PND’s) are still popular, and more and more new cars are leaving the lots equipped with GPS capabilities, GPS-enabled smartphones are coming on strong for a number of reasons. One very good reason is that regardless of the make, model or age of your car, your smartphone supplies it with instant GPS. And the number of seriously good navigation apps your smartphone can access – most of which are being constantly upgraded and improved – makes for a very desirable feature. Partnered with a mounting device for hands-free operation and enhanced visibility, the smartphone is hard to beat, especially since you can continue to use it as a walking GPS to guide you through unfamiliar territory after you leave your car.

2. MP3 playability

Since the dawn of the 8-track, drivers have prided themselves in personalizing the musical component of car travel. Then came the digital age and the portable, plug-in MP3 player. Being that smartphones are in fact also MP3 players, they’ve eliminated one more piece of stuff you have to take with you while allowing you ready access to thousands of tunes.

3. Entertainment capability

It’s hard to pull up to an SUV these days without seeing a drop down screen on which someone is watching a movie or playing a video game. While the driver should obviously avoid these kinds of distractions, the ability to distract and entertain passengers in a wide variety of ways – especially restless children – is yet another attractive feature of the smartphone.

4. WiFi accessibility

Not long ago the notion of laptop or tablet toting passengers in your car being able to connect to the internet was the stuff of science fiction. Now, with the aid of 3G and 4G smartphones, your cool ride becomes a “hotspot”, allowing carpooling co-workers to accomplish important online tasks in transit, or joyriding passengers to check their Facebook status, play games, or do anything they would normally do on at-home computers.

5. App empowerment

Drivers with smartphones enable themselves to take advantage of the myriad of apps designed to complement car travel. Looking for the best gas prices? To use a well-worn phrase, there’s an app for that. Apps can also help you keep track of routine car maintenance, alerting you when your next oil change or tire rotation is due. They can even give you repair estimates and help you find qualified mechanics. Other apps can alert you of road hazards and traffic jams, monitor fuel usage and cost, even help remind you where you last parked your car and give you directions to it. If the parking meter is running, an app will tell you when it’s time to drop more change in, or better still, some cities allow you to feed the meter remotely with your phone. Soon you’ll be able to leave your wallet at home, paying with your phone wherever your car may take you – or in the future, wherever your smartphone tells it to take you.

About the Author: Jim Marinelli is a freelance writer for Zonar. Zonar provides GPS route planning software as well as vehicle maintenance software for public and private fleets. Zonar is a privately held company headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

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