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Gadgets for your Car

In this post, I will discuss some of the interesting gadgets which are very useful for your car. Gadgets are selected in an Indian context. So do not expect any mention of radar detectors or apps for searching fuel pumps offering lowest fuel rate etc…

I will discuss the following gadgets which are very useful for your car.
  1. In car BT Speaker systems ( Jabra Freeway / Cruiser 2/ Cruiser)
  2. GPS (MapmyIndia S650/ Garmin 1460)
  3. Wireless TPMS (Tire pressure Monitoring Systems)
  4. Car Trip
  5. Car Reversing Aid
  6. FM Transmitters
  7. iPhone / Android Car Apps
We need to admit that we are all slaves of mobile devices and it is not easy to avoid attending phone calls while driving. In this mobile era you need extra willpower to reject a call. So if you can’t avoid such a situation, it is better to think of ways to make it safer by installing a Bluetooth In car speaker system, which is different from Bluetooth headsets.

To make the In Car Speaker system more effective it should be totally hands free. It is desirable to have features to help you reducing the number of gadgets in your car. It is not a wise idea to invest in a cheap BT speaker since it will not be totally hands free and it suffers from bad speech quality and lacks any extra features, it is like buying rotten mangoes at a reduced price.

Jabra Freeway

Jabra Cruiser series (Cruiser/ Cruiser 2 / Freeway) has the reputation of being the best In Car BT Speaker system in the market. Honorable mention goes to Motorola roadster which has almost identical feature set.

The following features make Jabra Freeway stand out.
  1. Two microphones for noise cancellation ( speech is very crisp and clear, filters all the surrounding noise)
  2. 3 Built-in Speakers for virtual surround sound with extra bass for listening to music
  3. Totally hands free operation: you can operate it through voice commands.
  4. Announce the incoming caller (make use of the Phone book transfer)
  5. Voice Guidance gives spoken battery level, pairing instructions and connection status
  6. FM transmitter to relay your phone calls or music to your car stereo speakers.
  7. Motion sensor to switch the device on or off. While opening the car door it will switch on automatically ,and switch off while leaving the car or closing the door.
  8. Multi user support (2 phones can be active at a time, but pairs with 8 phones)
  9. A2DP streaming for playback of music, podcasts and directions from GPS applications
  10. Up to 14 hours talk time and up to 40 days standby time
Most of these features are in Cruiser 2 models except motion sensor and 3 speaker systems. Cruiser lacks the voice command facility but still retains almost all other functionalities of Cruiser 2. The Voice command support depends on your phone. It works very well for accepting or rejecting a call. You have stylish buttons on the Freeway to do the same job. But while playing songs it may get confused with your commands for fast forward or rewind or skip a track. Direct controls in your phone are always handy if it happens. The build quality of the device is excellent with a matt finish. Overall it is an excellent product which you cannot ignore.

Jabra Freeway cost you around $129, Cruiser2 around $100/- and Cruiser is around $80/- These are available from Faxtel India.

Car Trip from Griffin Technologies

A car has lot to tell you and is really useful if you can tap on to it. CarTrip exactly does that. CarTrip plugs into your car’s OBD-II port, sends data from your car’s CPU to the iPhone apps CleanDrive.

Realtime and cumulative driving data is presented in easy-to-understand graphics right on your iOS device's screen

CleanDrive app running on your smart phone will monitor your car’s performance, collecting real-time data like fuel consumption, acceleration, top speed and engine diagnostic codes. CleanDrive crunches the numbers and displays a “Carbon Score” in an easy-to-understand format on the iOS or Android device’s screen. Instantaneous, trip, and long-term averages are recorded to give a clear view of how your driving habits impact the environment over time. It gives the fuel efficiency instantaneously and over a period of time you can try to improve your CleanDrive score with better driving habits (If many are interested I can discuss this in a separate column).
Over a period of time your leaf grows and the bigger the leaf grows the more efficiently you are driving. It can run a check on your engine and report error codes to help in making informed decisions on repair and maintenance. For the environmental conscious this will help you in reducing the carbon foot print. All this is yours in less than $90/-

Wireless TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System)

Maintaining correct Tyre pressure in the car is very important. It saves you fuel, reduce the wear and tear of tyres, it prevents overheating and prevents an accidental blowout. Incorrect tyre pressure will affect directly the handling of the vehicle and in an emergency maneuver/ braking it can play a crucial role. So it is better to maintain the right pressure in all the tyres. You know the pressure gauges in Petrol pumps are highly undependable. If you are an enthusiastic driver it is better to install a TPMS system in your car which will continuously monitor the pressures of all tyres and give a warning if it is not within safe limits.

Tyreprobe is a Bangalore based company and they have a wireless solution. It consists of a set of TPMS valves, sensors and a display. TPMS valves replace the normal valves of the tyres and sensors are fixed firmly to the valves using special screws. This arrangement will continuously the temperature and pressure information to display unit which is fixed on the dashboard using velcros. Alarms can be set for low pressure in the range 18 to 35PSI and high temperature 60 to 99Celesius.

A: Display Unit B: Velcro C: Charger cable D: Sensor and E: TPMS valves

GPS Devices

In recent years driving in highways becomes more frequent in India with increased number of young car owners and better roads. So when you drive to unfamiliar destinations, unlike conventional maps, GPS is very easy for your to use while driving and ease lots of tension.. With better Navigational maps available in India GPS devices is becoming one of the essential accessories for your car. There are primarily two types of GPS devices. 1. After market dedicated In dash GPS devices. 2. Smart Phone based GPS navigation where a smart phone with GPS device is equipped with maps to aid navigation.

Desirable Features of an In Dash GPS

  1. Size does matter. Screen size of anything above 3.5” is acceptable but beyond 4” is always easy to read.
  2. Real time talking directions: It is desirable to have talking direction capability for the receiver so that you can concentrate on your drive rather than looking at GPS.
  3. High Performance Powerful Navigation with Spoken Street names: Instead of turn by turn talking directions of announcing mere “Turn left” and “Turn Right” directions, mentions the names of road ahead and if we miss a turn it will instantaneously recalculates new routes and give new directions to arrive at the destination
  4. Detour route: If you see a traffic congestion ahead it automatically recalculates and alternative route
  5. Point of interest: You can enter a point of interest such as Petrol Bunk, restaurant etc as destination and it will guide you to the nearest one
  6. Powerful search: (Predictive data entry and dynamic search). You can enter the first letters of your destination and can pick up a destination from the suggestions popped up in the screen.
  7. Navigate using photographs: You can use Geo tag Photos as destinations
  8. Media player capabilities: Built in Video, Photos and music players
  9. Bluetooth capability to connect other devices.
  10. Personalization: You can store your routine routes so that you need not reenter every time.
  11. Revers Camera Support
MapmyIndia GPS S650
(http://www.garmin.co.in/ : http://www.mapmyindia.com/)

MapmyIndia and Satnav are Indian companies provide GPS solutions over the years. World GPS leaders like Garmin is also sell their products in India.

MapmyIndia GPS S650 runs Windows CE 6.0 and has 5” LCD display and an inbuilt 2GB Flash memory. It can be expanded to 8GB using a micros SD card. It has most of the features listed in the beginning of this article including reverse camera support. It is backed by a detailed navigational map from the same company which supports 1027 cities across India. Recently they have announced door to door navigation for Delhi and it is expected to come with the same feature for other Metros and Bangalore.

For details visit the link http://www.mapmyindia.com/gps/products/car/S650/overview.html

S650 comes with a charger and windshield mount. This may cost you around RS 18000/- but they have so many other models which are cheaper. Mapmy India’s RoadPilot spotting 3.5” screen is an entry level GPS which cost you RS 7500/- . You will get constant map upgrade from them to keep it current.

Garmin Nuvi 1460

Garmin 1460 comes with a 4.3” touch control screen and easily portable. It supports most of the features listed in the starting of the article. This thin GPS has preloaded with NAVTEQ map, announces streets by name in English, and guides you to the proper lane at junctions for navigation, and ecoRoute to keep track of fuel consumption. With stereo Bluetooth and enhanced phonebook, make and accept hands-free phone calls through the screen and listen to navigation. It can plan your trip and stores around 10 routes.

The 1460 includes many travel tools including JPEG picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, currency converter, measurement converter, calculator and more. With photo navigation, you can download pictures from Garmin Connect™ Photos and be navigated. With its “Where Am I?” emergency locator, you always know your location. Simply tap the screen to get your exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations. The 1460 features Garmin Lock, an anti-theft feature.

It costs around Rs 14000/-

For more details click on the link: http://www.garmin.co.in/products/ontheroad/nuvi1460_india/

Smart Phone Based GPS

Smart Phone based GPS is a cheaper option if you have already own a smart phone. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone you have many GPS apps available to use it for navigation. The disadvantage of Smart phone GPS is that it lacks some of the features of an In Dash GPS device which makes it attractive only if you are the navigator and not the driver.

Maps +

iPhone comes with a built in Maps and using the built-in GPS and Compass it can function as a basic GPS device. Since it uses Google Maps you generally do not have any issues on the coverage but it has to be downloaded real time while the car is moving which often pose a challenge with the limited speed and coverage of 3G networks in India. iZei’s Maps+ address some of the issues of Maps and is available for both iPhone and iPad. It can search for alternative routes, track routes (easy for return from an unfamiliar spot) and trigger off alarms at a preset location, socialize with your friends using the built in twitter client etc. You can download it free and more advanced features you need to unlock it with an in-apps subscription option ($2.99/-).

I found some of the features very interesting especially the location based alarm. You will appreciate this feature when you are travelling during night in a train or a bus. For ex: Imagine that you are travelling from Chennai to Bangalore in Bangalore mail and want to get down in Cantonment. As you know it may reach there at odd hours early morning. Normally you put an alarm for 4:45AM and you may find it is still 100Kms away L But using Map+ you can set an alarm to wake you at BLR East which works best for you to get down at Cantt comfortablyJ

You will get more sophisticated India GPS apps with 3D building views from Sygic etc which are costly $50/-.

FM transmitters

FM transmitters are great way of interfacing your MP3 music collections stored in iPod/ smart phones to your car stereo without upgrading it. Upgrading your car stereo comes with its own hassles, possible poor electrical wiring issues and loss of warranty of your car. So it is safe to go for an FM transmitter.

RoadTrip Hands Free from Griffin Technologies


RoadTrip is a worthy successor to the hugely popular iTrip which was the first plain FM transmitter product for your iPod. RoadTrip is not just an FM transmitter for listening to your iPod/ iPhone music in your car stereo, it has a Bluetooth interface which can pair with any Bluetooth enabled phone to make it totally hands free. In addition it can charge your iPhone and comes with a good mount for it with an iPhone and an attractive display.

  1. Play your iPod or iPhone on your car's FM stereo while you recharge its battery
  2. Flexible steel neck and case-friendly cradle holds your iPod or iPhone securely where you want it
  3. Easy SmartScan 1-button setup finds the best frequency for you
  4. Griffin SmartSound adjusts the signal for best sound, always
  5. Griffin-exclusive up-front controls give you eyes-free fingertip control
  6. Bluetooth pairing and built-in mic let you and your smartphone use RoadTrip as a handsfree speakerphone
  7. All the benefits of a custom installation without the cost or inconvenience
Belkin TuneCast Auto is another product to worth mentioning.