New app enables sharing trip sights, sounds and facts
2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI (Volkswagen)
VW and Google’s new SmileDrive app is a way to boost the social fun factor of road trips and everyday commuting, all while remaining safely undistracted by data the app logs as you motor along.
Impressively, SmileDrive is brand-agnostic. You don’t actually need a VW, since it pairs to your smartphone through Bluetooth. However, non-VW drivers will miss out on an automated, digital version of the old PunchBug or PunchDub game, wherein VW occupants punch each others’ arms (and now get points) when they spot another VW on the road. You get virtual bumper stickers for achievements like extra-long distance trips and holiday driving or a “Night Owl” sticker for late night drives.
After a drive is complete, the app uses a variety of factors (location, distance, time, weather) to deliver users a Smile Score. You’re then awarded virtual stickers for unique accomplishments earned while out and about.
Because no social app is worth a dime without sharing content, Seamless Sharing is linked to the user’s Google+ account so friends can be invited to follow (and maybe heckle) you online. On a longer road trip, SmileDrive can help create a Smilecast: a travelogue filled with captured photos, maps of the trip, status updates, plus other facts, all amassed on a single URL which friends and family can view. When the trip is done, the user receives a video compiling the highlights of the trip. Your own little sizzle reel.
By logging the vehicle’s last position, SmileDrive can also help users find their car when parked via Google Maps, plus you can receive return walking directions. A boon to mall shoppers everywhere.
Because SmileDrive can be paired through Bluetooth, drives are automatically recorded when the user starts and stops the vehicle and minimizes chances for distracted driving. However, if the car doesn’t have Bluetooth, the app can be manually started and stopped before driving begins.
On the downside, since SmileDrive was developed with Google, it only works with Android devices.