Though many people once thought technology would cut down on the length of the workweek, anyone trying to grow a company today knows just the opposite has happened: In the present economic climate, you have to use high-tech resources to stay plugged in well past “regular business hours.” That’s just a starting point, too. To get ahead of the pack, you have to leverage those resources wherever they are—like in your car, for instance. That’s because technology might not shorten your working hours, but it can certainly help you get more out of them, and that’s even when you’re on the road.
Here are five cutting-edge automotive features that prove the point:
- Hands-free calling and text messaging
For a lot of individuals, the idea of putting down their phones while they drive is an annoyance. For small business owners, it can be a lost opportunity that never knocks again. That’s not an issue in many current vehicles, however, since the vast majority offer Bluetooth hands-free calling systems. With this technology, it’s simple to make and answer calls using a combination of steering-wheel-mounted controls and voice recognition. There’s no fumbling with tiny buttons or having to look away from the road.
In-vehicle Bluetooth systems can also be used to “read” incoming texts over your audio speakers and send preset responses. For example, you can let the sender know you’re driving and can’t safely text back at the moment.
- Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots
When you need to go all-in for mobile connectivity—and many entrepreneurs do—the next big thing will be vehicles with actual mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Indeed, General Motors already supplies standard mobile Wi-Fi throughout its Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC lineups. You can be sure that other mainstream automakers won’t be far behind.
Mobile Wi-Fi does require a data plan, as is the case with typical smartphones, but the result is the same kind of full connectivity as you’d have in your office. Whenever and wherever you need to get some work done online, all you need to do is pull over and log on. GM also points out that its mobile Wi-Fi can support up to seven devices at once.
- New navigation technologies
If you’re running late for a presentation, or to put out another one of those little fires that could end up threatening your business, the last thing you want is to get lost on the way. This is exactly why in-vehicle navigation technology is so important.
Automakers have put significant effort into making these systems more accurate and less difficult to operate over the years, so much so that many now can recognize voice commands for finding addresses and destinations; this is an obvious benefit for safety, since it means you don’t have to fuss with the touchscreen to get where you’re going. Once your destination is set, route guidance then can kick in with both visual and audible turn-by-turn directions to keep you on track.
- Smartphone integration and app access
At this stage, you might be wondering why you can’t just sync your smartphone to your car and use that for Wi-Fi-style connectivity and navigation. Well, you can with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Each has its characteristic approach to the matter, but both allow you to control many of your phone’s functions—including Apple and Google mapping, voice-activated text messaging and certain apps—through your vehicle’s infotainment system.
Automakers also take advantage of smartphones with specific app-access technologies of their own. These systems require smartphones for data connectivity but support a limited number of third-party apps with interfaces baked right into a vehicle’s infotainment setup. Among them are some that are especially helpful to those doing business on-the-go, such as the Scout GPS app that serves up a low-cost navigation alternative in select Toyota vehicles.
- Driver-assistance technology
There’s also safety technology to take into account. After all, nothing can bring your business momentum to a screeching halt like an auto accident. It’s true that these features can’t replace paying attention at the wheel, and they’re no guarantee of complete protection. But they can warn you if you’re drifting out of your lane, automatically slow your vehicle if there’s traffic ahead or alert you that it may be time to pull over for a rest.
To keep down your business’ bottom line, even mass-market entries like a Honda Civic can deliver sophisticated technologies. Consider the automaker’s LaneWatch: It captures video from a camera on the passenger-side exterior mirror, then shows it in the car’s display screen for enhanced blind-spot visibility.
And remember, when it’s part of a vehicle being used for business, all this may be tax-deductible, too.
Charles Krome is a car tech expert and writer for CARFAX. He grew up with a love of cars and now uses his passions to help car owners and businesses navigate the world of car technology.