We've often wondered when the next layer of social media would hit the car world. We're as concerned about creepers tracking our every movement in our cars as the next guy, but the advent of technology like the iPhone and built-in GPS just begs a whole new world of insurance paid by the mile, of coupons for gas and extras from local stations, service specials from dealers, and most of all, an easy way for the car cognoscenti to hook up in totally work-safe ways.
Well, it's here, and MINI's pioneering this next step with MINI Link, a new app available from the iTunes App Store. The catchy hook: "detect and connect." It's the first mobile app we know of that lets users supply their location voluntarily--and lets other users know where they are.
That kind of connectivity's been a boon for more adult-oriented apps you might use. When it comes to cars, it works in exactly the same way--on MINI Link, you set up an identity through the onscreen pages that loads your MINI's VIN number, and goes as granular as you want, from paint color, to roof style, stripes and decals, and mirrors (important info since almost every MINI comes from the factory with some owner-induced tweakage). That information is turned into your mobile avatar, and sends you into the world with your MINI-ness laid bare for the walled-garden Apple world to see.
The key functions of the app are supposed to bring MINI drivers together. Pull it up, and you get a map overlaid with the locations of nearby, assenting MINI drivers. You can ping them and try to connect in person--or you can add to the phone-created database of hotspots for MINI activities, places to buy cheap gas, or drive-throughs of note. Those "breadcrumbs" get left behind for other drivers so they can check them out--sort of a '10s version of Hansel and Gretel, minus the 40-45-minute roasting time.
The ability to "wave" at other MINI drivers creates the ultimate in car-fan possibilities, MINI says. With the app, you can set up impromptu (or highly planned) MINI-themed events, like a Saturday Cars and Coffee or a five-car rollercoaster ride through bendy roads like Tennessee's Tail of the Dragon.
Privacy freaks, this one's not for you. For the highly engaged and Apple-addicted MINIheads out there, dial up your iPhone to the iTunes App Store, or get there the long way through MINI USA Web site. Here's what you'll see when you finish the brief install: