App-driven life: Making smart cars even smarter

Smart cars bring to mind fuel-efficiency, Japan, genius engineering -- but what about intelligence? Now car makers are getting in on the app game, providing drivers with a wealth of information behind the wheel. 

Ann Hermes
Smart cars don't just mean high fuel efficiency anymore. With the development of car-specific apps, drivers like Orquidania Tejada in Watertown, Mass. can get a wealth of information about nearby places and people.

Can your car use apps? High-end Lexus cars now come with digital dashboards. These car displays (about the size of a short but wide laptop screen placed just above the gearshift) offer built-in maps and directions. However, they really come to life once you connect the car to an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android phone.

The Lexus Enform application – which is free to download, but requires a Lexus to work – uses the phone's data connection to pipe in music and restaurant reviews. Lexus teamed up with seven of the most popular online services to put a version of their mobile apps into the Enform app. There's (for showtimes), OpenTable (for restaurant reservations), Pandora and iHeartRadio (for music), Bing (for search), Yelp (for reviews), and Facebook Place (for posting your location to Facebook).

Lexus chose a good cross section of apps but incorporated fairly handicapped versions of each service. Since your phone is already in the car, you might as well just use the original, full-featured versions of these popular apps and not bother with Enform's $7 monthly fee.

Enform adds in voice controls for most of these apps, which is nice. Though one does wonder when a driver is supposed to be using these things, especially since several of the apps require someone to be looking at the screen.


You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to