Dude, Where’s My Car Computer?

Nearly 88% of Americans drive to work each day, with an average round-trip taking 52 minutes. But what’s now dead time is quickly becoming productive with these high-tech car toys–if you can give up your addiction to Jack FM.

Turn Email Into Voice Mail

If checking your BlackBerry has ever caused you to narrowly miss a head-on collision, try getting your email read to you over the phone. Once you get used to hearing email from your boss (or worse, your significant other) narrated to you by a monotonic computerized voice, the jConnect service ($15 a month) is actually quite liberating. JConnect even lets you create an oral reply, which it then sends as an audio file attachment.

The Information Interstate

Now that the phone carriers are finally building high-speed wireless networks (called EV-DO), you can drive for miles without losing your Internet connection. Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint can hit speeds that rival a home broadband connection. The modem will cost you more than $200, and the service is $80 a month. If you truly want a mobile office, buy Kyocera’s KR1 Mobile Router ($299.99), which will let everyone in a vehicle share a single connection. Except the driver, we hope.

Everything at Your Fingertips

Instead of just firing up your computer in your car, you can install a car computer. The StreetDeck ($1,699, plus roughly $500 for custom installation) lives in your trunk and has a touch-screen display in the dash. A simple swipe of your finger will pull up driving directions, MP3s, satellite radio, or even a DVD. You can perform system diagnostics and even hook up a rearview camera. So live out your Knight Rider fantasies–although you’ll still have to wait for a car that can pick you up at the curb.