Find My iPhone has been invaluable at recovering lost Apple devices, but if you’re anything like me, keeping track of where you parked the car amid a sea of concrete and sedans is even harder than remembering where you dropped your selfie machine.
Apple’s latest patent filings reveal it has been working to solve those lost car disasters with an ingenious system that could be included in the future iPhones to guide you back to your vehicle, and it doesn’t even need an LTE or GPS signal.
I was almost out of gas. I was also almost out of cash. I needed to find the cheapest source of fuel for my beat-up ride so I could get downtown to meet a friend for coffee. I pulled up GasBuddy, and within one tap I found the closest, cheapest gas station near me.
Once I gassed up, I hit a sweet parking spot just a few blocks away from the coffee shop. I launched Honk, swiped across the top to set the time on the meter, and took a photo of my car to make sure I could get back to it.
Sure, fine, it’s not a flying car, but this is as close to the future as this old beater is going to get, and it’s all thanks to my iPhone and a suite of apps.
I drive a 10-year-old Nissan Xterra. When I see new vehicles with technology like Ford Sync and Siri Eyes Free, I get jealous of the ability to send texts and answer phone calls without touching my iPhone. The most advanced thing my car can do is play audio from my iPhone through a stereo jack in the radio console.
Combine the lack of cool tech in my whip and my obsession with the latest gadgets and I was immediately intrigued back in March when I heard about Automatic, a hardware/software startup based in San Francisco that’s pitched as a smart driving assistant. Unlike an expensive add-on that has to be installed by a dealer, the Automatic Link is a $100 dongle (Amazon link) that can plug into the car’s data port found somewhere under the steering wheel. It communicates over low-energy Bluetooth to an iPhone app that records your driving, analyzes your mileage, reads your check engine light, helps you find your parked car and more.
The feature that sold me was the ability to see what was causing my engine light to come on—a problem that has ruthlessly followed me with every vehicle I’ve owned so far. I immediately preordered and my Automatic arrived mid-October.
After using Automatic for about a month now, it’s real usefulness is starting to show. There are features about it I love, and it’s shown me how everyday technology, like an iPhone, can enhance the car experience. The Jetsons-like future of transportation isn’t here yet, but Automatic is a precursor of what’s to come. It gets me excited about how our personal computers will interface with cars in 10 years.
Ah, the open road. Nothing like some great tunes, an agreeable companion and endless blacktop to relieve the stress after — or enjoy a little peace before — that remote Thanksgiving gathering (note that I said a companion, as in singular; if you’ve got kids, I’m guessing you’ll probably want to fly).
Before you head out, you might want to do a little planning with something like Roadtrippers, a helpful site and accompanying iOS app that can show you hip, hidden or just plain weird points of interest along your planned route.