These days, there are tons of apps and devices designed expressly for making your time on the road safer. From monitoring the health of your vehicle to offering hands-free emergency assistance, some incredible innovations are available. Check out the latest (and greatest) in connected car technology.

(Related: take this myth-busting quiz to see if you’re up to speed on data and smart cars.)

1. Monitor your systems

Cars are positively chock-full of useful intelligence these days. Using seemingly innocuous data points like your daily mileage, gas usage, and engine health, innovators are mining and repurposing info from your car’s computer systems in order to offer a never-ending range of insights and services. Most apps work in concert with wireless, plug-and-play ports (aka an OBD II short for on-board diagnostics), which retrieve the information from your car’s systems, feeding it wirelessly to your smartphone or other connected devices. Once you’re connected, a range of apps can help you do everything from diagnose potential engine issues (like why that pesky check engine light might be on again) to conduct a smog test check.

2. Get smart driving assistance

Powered by the same OBD-II technology, smart driving assistant apps have hit the market full force. These apps can help you keep track of your car in crowded parking lots, give you real-time location information for family members who are on the road, and even integrate smart home and smart car technologies for a never-ending array of far-out possibilities. Not sure when you had your last oil change? Some apps will send you text notifications or calendar alerts so it’s virtually impossible to forget when it’s tune-up time. Also available: voice-control apps that work with your smartphone so you can do things like navigate, accept or dismiss calls, and control your music without ever taking your hands off the wheel (or your eyes off the road).

3. Access automated emergency management

Roadside and emergency assistance just got a lot smarter. Today’s apps can give you one-button access to roadside assistance, notify your emergency contacts after you’ve had an accident, or even pinpoint the location of a stolen car. Bluetooth speakers also offer a hands-free option for communicating with emergency help and family.

Have a teen driver? Many apps aim to keep young drivers safe using tattle-tale notifications for speeding or going outside of an established geofence, automatically alerting guardians every step of the way. Other apps give driving feedback to help assess driving safety, offering tips and gamification elements to sweeten the deal (like high scores for the family member with the best gas mileage, for example).

With a small investment in hardware and an app that best fits your needs, you can make most any car built and sold in the U.S. after 1996 (the year marking OBD-II compliance) a whole lot smarter.

Check out this recent report on smart cars and data (and what you should know about both).

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.