You don't need to buy a brand new car to get parking assist, use a digital personal assistant, or get accurate diagnostics to pinpoint the issue that illuminated your check engine light. Soon, your phone will watch you via biometric features to detect signs of tiredness and distraction.

Some of the automotive technology that would help a dealership salesperson in the past to nudge you toward a higher trim, is today available à la carte thanks to smartphone technology and the resulting proliferation of apps. Put a little differently, you can keep your scraped up daily driver and get some of the same features as luxury buyers and lessors. You won't quite roll like a boss in your beater, but you'll have a more convenient ride.

Four apps are available here and now, with more to come.

FenSens

FenSens provides parking assist through a sensor in a license plate frame (retail $149.99) that is connected via bluetooth to a smartphone you mount on your dashboard. You don't get a camera, but the app displays an electronic diagram for a visual in addition to audio guidance.

Originally designed for license plate frames in the Americas, the Bellingham, Washington-based startup's new European version started shipping last month.

ParkBob

After growing in Europe, ParkBob's free parking finder will threaten price searchers SpotHero and ParkMe here in the United States and step on the toes of automakers who plan to network all models for smart cities, including connectedness for easy parking. It just announced expansion into Seattle and Portland this week, with plans for 22 North American cities by the end of the year, and was invited into BMW's incubator Startup Garage and into Techstars Mobility's exhibitor section at this year's North American International Auto Show.

Make My Day

This app acts as a kind of digital personal assistant, also helping you locate parking but doing more. This too emulates some of the networked vision the large carmakers have for future models. BMW, Mercedes, and even Hyundai have plans to make your car a smart car similar to your smart house.

Make My Day optimizes your route through the day, helping with tasks at destinations along the way. Headquartered in Tel Aviv, it is aiming for U.S. markets with a planned launch date in Q4 of this year. 

The company is also in talks with two unnamed major automotive manufacturers.

GoPoint

This Detroit-made scanner plugs into your car like the one your mechanic uses, but connects to your smartphone through over 20 apps, so that you know for yourself what the issue is, and can research what maintenance should realistically cost. 

The actual unit is not free ($120 and up depending on package), and the  compatible apps are iOS only, but the company is quick to remind that it is made in the country's automotive capital, rather than cheaper outsourced destinations.

Published on: Jan 18, 2018