6 Ways Your Smartphone Is Changing Your Cars

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

Your smartphone has become an important part of your life, even during your commute. While using a phone while driving is dangerous, it’s clear that the processing power and versatility of your device can be very useful.

Automakers are finally starting to realize this potential and are integrating more smartphone connectivity into new vehicles. The end result is that your phone is beginning to replace some traditional functions in your vehicle. Here are six ways your smartphone is changing how you drive.


Automakers are turning to smartphones to power the navigation systems in vehicles. Thanks to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, your favorite mapping app is available on your car’s dashboard. In addition, all locations stored in your phone’s address book can be easily accessed on your infotainment screen.

Feature Focus: How the 2016 Chevy Spark’s Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Works

This is important because, unlike your car, your smartphone has an always-on internet connection. As a result, your maps will always be up to date and routes will be automatically adjusted to get you to your destination faster by avoiding traffic jams, construction and closed roads.


This is an obvious one. With CD players disappearing from new cars, something has to come along to replace them. Smartphones not only have a lot of extra storage for your music, but they are also connected to the internet, so they can stream your favorite tunes from an online service like Google Play or Pandora. Many cars also come with Bluetooth so you can stream your music wirelessly. Other vehicles come with an auxiliary cable that can plug right into your phone’s headphone jack.

See Also: 8 Car Features That Will Soon Be Obsolete

In some cases, your car’s rear-seat entertainment system can be replaced by a smart device. Automakers are bundling tablets rather than built-in TVs so kids can have something more interactive or customizable than just a DVD playing Madagascar.


Do you ever feel that something is amiss with your ride? Ever catch a strange dashboard warning light, only to have it to disappear the next time you turn on the car? Sometimes, you can tell something isn’t working just right, but can’t figure it out.

There are some apps and hardware out there that will give you more information about what is going on with your ride. First, you plug in a Bluetooth adapter to your car’s OBDII port, and then you can use an app to tell you the status of various systems in your ride. You can understand and clear diagnostic trouble codes, or use it to get more information about your air-to-fuel mix.

Some apps can even tell you how to drive more efficiently.


Connected cars have internet access, like your smartphone. Many automakers are also starting to offer apps with their cars to give drivers real-time updates on their vehicle’s status. You can see where you parked, how much fuel you have left, and even if you forgot to lock the doors. Many of these apps can also give you remote access so you can lock, close the windows or start your car remotely.

GM, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes offer this kind of connection to your car from your phone, but Volvo is looking to take this concept to the next logical step by making your phone the actual key to your car.

The Swedish automaker sees phones connecting to cars in a similar way to how a proximity keys operate. Walk up to your car, it will sense a unique signature on your phone and then it will unlock. Press the “Start” button and it will start. We always seem to know where our phone is, but can sometimes lose our keys. Maybe this will help eliminate that problem.

Anti-Collision Systems

As cars become more connected, they will be able to communicate with the things around them. Stop lights, for example, will be able to talk to your car and tell it when the light will go green so it can restart the engine.

That’s all well and good, but what about pedestrians? You know those unpredictable people wandering in close proximity to the road? They’re often buried in their phones, oblivious to the cars zooming by them. Their smartphones will be able to connect to the car or infrastructure in order to keep collisions and injuries to a minimum.


Many cities and parking garages allow you to pay for parking via an app that’s connected to your credit card. That means no more rummaging for loose change or running back to your car to top up the meter. Most of these apps let you digitally top up your meter from your phone too, so you never have to worry about running back in time.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

More by Sami Haj-Assaad

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