Britain has roughly the same number of cars registered for the road as there are in France. That’s around 37 million, despite Britain having less than half the space of its continental neighbour. Unsurprisingly, it makes for crowded roads. Populated areas and main roads frequently grind to a halt and the UK has the dubious title of having the most congested roads in Europe.
As a consequence, more drivers than ever are turning to their smartphone to help navigate our congested roads. Apps that guide users from A to B, responding to live traffic conditions along the way, are replacing portable sat nav units. Because of this, it would no longer sell sat navs in its stores. More damning still, they were labelled ‘left behind’ in its annual retail report. To help drivers choose the best smartphone navigation app, here are five highly rated examples.
Free navigation apps for drivers
“Take the next left. Or is that right?” Sat navs aren’t always infallible
Sat navs are one of the wonders of modern motoring ‑ until they direct you to somewhere you don’t want to be. There are numerous stories of satellite navigation systems going bad. Drivers have been directed onto the middle of ski slopes, articulated lorries pointed down totally unsuitable country lanes and coach parties sent on 750-mile detours.
Although most of us have been led up the metaphorical garden path by a sat nav at one stage, they will become an even more vital part of modern life. From December 2017, drivers will have to follow follow a navigation system for at least part of their driving test.
Research by uSwitch suggests that around four in five of us rely on navigation systems over maps. And more than half (56 per cent) use the navigation unit as a handy reminder of the speed limit.
However, systems aren’t 100 per cent reliable. Research carried out by uSwitch found that around one in five drivers (17 per cent) had been given the wrong speed limit by their navigation system. So why are we being misled by our sat navs? And what can we do about it?
Why don’t sat navs tell the truth?
Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel with voice-activated smartphone kits
The law on mobile phone use in cars changed at the beginning of March. The penalty for drivers caught phoning or texting without being hands-free has doubled, to six points with a £200 fine. But there’s no need to be hit with a costly fine and hefty points. There’s plenty of aftermarket equipment that will keep drivers on the right side of the law and safe on the road.
Bluetooth integration for mobile phones first made its way into our cars in 2001. For years, it remained an option that drivers would have to pay for with their new car. These days, it’s widely available as standard.
For anyone driving an older car without Bluetooth, there is a wide range of products to choose from, some offering much more than just wireless connection to a phone.
Mobile phone apps can help drivers in many different areas (Picture © Mazda)
Motoring apps are one of the unsung revolutions of the digital age. Whether it’s playing games, locating car parks or helping your breakdown company find you in a strange neighbourhood, there really is an app for that. Here we look at five different areas of driving and the mobile phone apps that could come in handy to help save drivers money.
Motoring apps: Satellite navigation
Specify the manufacturer’s built-in sat nav on any car and it’ll cost you hundreds of pounds. If it’s a small car, second-hand buyers won’t pay any extra for a sat nav so specifying one on a new car could be a costly business. And besides, you can have a sat nav on your phone.
For navigation, there are a wide variety of free and paid-for apps, such as Here, Waze and CoPilot. Useful features worth considering are whether the apps take post codes; some car sat navs don’t. The app should also have a super simple screen with large icons and be intuitive to use. Voice guidance is handy and ideally you want it to work offline so if you’re abroad you don’t have to use an expensive data connection to get to where you’re going.