Latest Apps Assist With Family Outings

You don't need a brand-new car to enjoy all of the Digital Age's driving innovations.

Here are some suggestions of what to download before you hit the road.

Navigation Devices: Google and Apple both offer free map programs, while TomTom and Garmin still earn plenty of business charging for service. Navigation devices can alert drivers to speed traps and traffic cameras, giving them tangible benefits compared to free downloads like Google Maps.

Dash Cameras: Those frenzied moments surrounding a car crash can be the most difficult to recall. And eyewitnesses aren't always reliable.

Fortunately, video creates a lasting record.

Dash cameras have been a staple for law enforcement for decades and recently have become widely available to consumers. Such a device records exactly what went down, providing both a definitive account and a potential safeguard against fraudulent lawsuits or at-fault drivers who flee the scene.

Ideally, a camera films when the car is running and breaks the footage into 3- to 4-minute chapters, he said. If the data on the external memory card is not downloaded to a computer, newer footage loops over the old when the card becomes filled.

Apple CarPlay: Available on select vehicles, this program offers drivers easy access to their iPhone's most crucial functions.

CarPlay connects to a user's iPhone and easily integrates the functions for accessing messages, making calls, setting a route and listening to music. The system works with a vehicle's controls, and Siri's voice control is specifically designed to aid drivers while they keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

CarPlay is an option on a wide array of new vehicles, while drivers of older vehicles can access a version through their iPhones.

Android Auto: Available on select vehicles, this program provides simple access to an Android smartphone's crucial apps.

Android Auto integrates the functions for accessing messages, making calls, setting a route and listening to music. An optional voice control function aims to reduce distracted driving by allowing the user to easily access the most common functions.

Android Auto often serves as an option on newer vehicles, though those who drive older models can access a version through their Android smartphone.

Rest Stop Locator: Rest stops are ideal for stretching the legs and grabbing a snack. But sometimes you don’t notice the stop until you’ve zipped past it on the freeway.

Rather than referring to a map stored in the glove compartment, navigators can watch the route unfold in real-time. Such apps can range in price from free to a few dollars and are available on all platforms.

Best Prices on Gas: Nobody wants to get gouged at the gas pump. Visit the app store and find a digital travel companion who can show you the best deals before fueling up. The most powerful apps offer targeted searches by city, state, and zip codes across North America--updated in real-time. Apps that get info from the Oil Price Information Service typically have the most accurate prices.

Reserve a Parking Space: The days of circling the block looking for a parking space can be a thing of the past. Just be sure to select an app with real-time availability. Knowing where parking spots are located doesn’t help much if no parking is available or you can't reserve one. Some apps also offer discounts and coupons.