How to: Put an iPad to work, in the car

Tablets Hit The Road

Every few months the open road beckons and I get the insatiably urge to sit behind the wheel, buckle up and take a road trip. This time, though, rather than hitting the open road with just my car, a gas credit card and a few sandwiches, I’m bringing my iPad along for the ride.

The simple fact is that the iPad is particularly well-suited for the car. After all, it has a simple interface, doesn’t require a physical keyboard and is small and thin enough to fit into some of the nooks and crannies of a car. For that matter, an Android tablet can do just about the same thing.

With an iPad along for the ride from Point A to B, you won’t have to do without a digital thing on the road. I’ve set up my car with everything from online video and Internet radio to GPS mapping and even troubleshooting what’s wrong under the hood when the pesky “Check Engine” light comes on.

To do it right requires some special hardware and effort to meld the iPad with the car, including powering the pad, providing it with data and hanging it in a strategic place. All in all, the iPad can makes itself at home on the road.

This time, I’m off to upstate New York on business, but the destination doesn’t matter as much as the journey. Here are 10 tips on for retrofitting a car (I used my old Mercedes station wagon) for an iPad, none of which require much in the way of mechanical aptitude or tools. They’ll work with just about any vehicle.

Before getting started, a word of caution is called for. Regardless of whether you receive an urgent email from your significant other or the latest viral video from a buddy--as the driver, your attention needs to be exclusively on the road and not on the iPad’s screen. That’s where your navigator/shot-gun passenger comes in. Let him or her take care of the technology while you eat up the miles.

Brian Nadel

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.