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Drive times app ETA brings location dashboard to CarPlay

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Nearly a decade after its launch, ETA‘s simple drive times app is finally making its way to Apple CarPlay. The newly updated app, which offers an alternative first step to planning a trip, isn’t meant to directly compete with mobile maps or other navigation apps. Instead, it serves as more of a “location dashboard” that can also sync with your calendar, showing you the travel times and traffic warnings to various destinations, like home, work, school, your next meeting, or anything else, across multiple forms of transport. When you’re actually ready to go, ETA can kick off the navigation in the navigation app of your choice and share your arrival time with friends.

Yes, it’s a bit wild that such a tool would not have been available in the place where so much trip planning and navigation actually occurs: your vehicle. But ETA co-founder Anthony Harrison explains the team wasn’t allowed to publish to CarPlay for most of ETA’s existence because of Apple’s rules.

It wasn’t until last year that Apple opened up CarPlay entitlements (a special set of permissions) to a broader set of apps that ETA was able to build for the CarPlay platform, Harrison says. At issue, previously, was the fact that ETA wasn’t technically a navigation app, so it hadn’t been able to qualify.

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With Apple’s loosened rules, ETA is finally able to offer its feature set to drivers, not just to iPhone and Apple Watch users as before. (And while we generally hesitate to use the word “finally” in reference to long-awaited launches, in this case – nine years later! – we think it’s appropriate.)

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ETA hasn’t radically evolved over the past several years in terms of its user interface and feature set – beyond taking advantage of platform improvements and updated design guidelines, that is. At its core, ETA is still very much the simple location dashboard it always was, an at-a-glance style utility, built to serve a single purpose, which often made the app preferable to a maps app for starting to plan your journey.

The developers have also been quick to adopt various iOS and watchOS updates, like the support for widgets and complications that let you more easily track travel times without even having to open the app.

Despite this, ETA remains something of an under-the-radar App Store find. Because of its various bugs (and sometimes user errors) over the years, the app’s 3.8-star rating may cause some to overlook it. But developers are responsive to complaints and the app’s staying power is a testament to its adoption among a loyal set of customers. The company notes it’s had over 100,000 paying customers since its 2014 debut, which for their purposes is a success.

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We have to add that the app is also the now-rare paid download that doesn’t bug you for a subscription after you’ve paid the initial $4.99 fee. It’s refreshing.

 

The new CarPlay-enabled version of ETA offers a similar set of functionality to its iPhone counterpart.

In this case, you can put your favorite locations to drive to on your dash with the travel time and traffic conditions clearly displayed, Harrison tells us. With calendar integrations, your upcoming appointments and meetings are also shown with a recommended time to leave. And when you’re ready to navigate, you can tap a location to start directions in your preferred navigation app.

The updated version is live on the App Store now.

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