Drivers are using their cell phones for more interesting applications these days, using them more and more to help with all areas of their lives for little or no money.
According to an article in the New York Times, one free application for the iPhone, for example, helps users take the mystery out of their repair bills. If you type in the make and model of your vehicle along with what ails it, RepairPal will provide estimated parts and labor costs. It also offers a list of nearby repair shops with customer ratings, although it does not include diagnostic fees and taxes.
Then there's Dynolicious, a $12.99 application that uses an iPhone's built-in accelerometer to gauge 0-to-60 times (to within 0.08 of a second) and other performance measurements, such as lateral G-forces. Dynolicious will also let you assess your vehicle's top speed, but to get precise results you'll need to secure the phone in a cradle. A competing program is such as g-tac pro ($19.99).
These programs are for closed road courses, but programs like the Njection speed trap alert application for the iPhone tests posted speed limits on public roadways. The program costs $2.99, and compiles reports from other drivers to locate speed traps along your route.
Other products track your commitment to helping the environment. Ecorio is a free program written for Google Android-based smartphones, the first of which is the G1 from T-Mobile. The application will keep a running tally of your carbon footprint and can also suggest the most efficient commuting routes to help you emit fewer carbon emissions. It even offers carpooling information in some areas.
GreenMeter ($5.99) is an eco-friendly program for iPhone owners that can estimate the number of barrels of oil your car is consuming and produce graphs illustrating fuel economy at different speeds and rates of acceleration. AccuFuel (99 cents) is for iPhone users who mainly just want to track fuel efficiency.
And there's more. Programs are out there that offer maintenance service reminders (Gas Cubby for the iPhone, $4.99), track business expenses (Trip Cubby, $9.99; and MileBug, $3.99), and even e-mail reports to the boss from the phone (MileageTracker Pro for BlackBerry users, $29.90 for annual subscription).
Finally, iWrecked ($1.99) is an iPhone program that helps you gather all the information you'll need if you are involved in an accident, including the location, time, names and insurance information of other drivers. You can also then use your phone to take photos of the damage and the position of the cars.