Enjoy the Ride! Apps to Enhance Your Driving Experience

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    Driving Apps Here on The Express Lane, we’ve already hit you with some incredibly cool apps to help you curb your texting and driving habit. But what about apps that simply make driving more fun? Our vehicles aren’t just a tool to get from one place to another (well, okay, they are… but they’re a lot more!).

    Our cars can be our sanctuary – a place to get away from stress and just hang out on the open road for an hour or two. Whether you have a long daily commute to work, or you’re simply enjoying some free time with a joy ride, here are some apps that can add to your in-car experience and keep you smiling and relaxed the whole way.

    Pandora: Many of you are likely already quite familiar with this Internet radio service, but for those of you who aren’t – you should be. Pandora allows you to create custom radio stations based upon your personal musical tastes, and stream them straight from your computer, smart phone, or in-car entertainment system. The radio service uses its unique Music Genome to match artists by intricate characteristics of their music. By choosing an artist like you enjoy (for instance, my current go-to station is “Rat Pack Radio”), Pandora will play artists with similar attributes (so on my Rat Pack station, I get music from not only from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, but also Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, Billie Holiday, and others). You can give each song a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down,” teaching Pandora what type of music to play for you, and which songs you never want to hear again.

    Many vehicles have begun integrating Pandora into their stock entertainment system, including all 2011 and later BMW models and Ford trucks. But even if yours doesn’t, you can either connect your smart phone to your vehicle using an MP3 connector, or simply put your phone on a high volume and let it sit in the seat next to you.

    Parking Mate: How many times have we repeated to ourselves the row and number where we parked our car… only to return an hour later and have no idea where we parked? Parking Mate can save you a tantrum or two by logging the location of your vehicle using your GPS. When you finish your shopping spree, simply use the app to guide yourself back to where you parked!

    Parking Mate can also set a timer for parking meters (no more expired meter tickets!), and even find times and locations for street sweeping, off-hours parking, or other restrictions that could possibly get you fined – or worse, towed!

    SlugBug Road Trip: Who doesn’t love this classic, if somewhat painful, road trip game? When traveling with a group of people, take your slugging to the next level by tracking the Bugs you’ve spotted with the SlugBug Road Trip app.

    Currently developed for the iPhone, this app lets you take pictures of all players involved, and then tracks your points for each Bug you score. It even differentiates between newer Beetles, and the old-school VW Bugs that look like they should be named Herbie.

    Roadside America: The seasoned traveler knows that it’s not a road trip without seeing the world’s biggest ball of rubber bands (or in my case, the world’s biggest hockey stick – thanks, Eveleth, MN!). With Roadside America, you’ll never miss another tourist trap again! Choose your region, and the app will bring up dozens of crazy statues, celebrity houses, famous landmarks, and more. You’ll even get reviews and recommendations from the app’s parent site, RoadsideAmerica.com.

    These apps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to entertainment on the open road. What apps have you tried and liked while driving (safely, of course!)? Let us know in the comments below!

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