Uber Improves Transportation App with Automatic ETA Feature

If you’re sick of getting texts asking when you’re going to arrive at a party or a dinner date, Uber may have a solution for you. The mobile company that provides rides through a real-time smartphone app has added a new feature to its service.  You can now share your ETA with friends from within the app by selecting the contacts that you want to alert. Those friends will receive a text with your estimated arrival time, and a live map showing your location, the company said this week.

Launched in 2009, Uber connects licensed drivers with time on their hands to folks who need a lift.  It’s a big hit in urban areas with tech-savvy people who don’t own a car and find public transportation and taxis inconvenient, and sometimes non-existent.

The app produces a real-time map of your area showing all available nearby drivers and lets you select the type of vehicle you want – town cars, SUVs, taxis, and even green cars. Once you select your vehicle, you’re sent a picture of the driver and an estimate of his or her arrival time.

As your ride approaches, you get real-time updates of the car’s location on a live map. Payment and a tip for the driver are handled directly within the app, avoiding the “I don’t have any cash” anxiety and “My credit card machine is down” debacle.

Since its launch, Uber has gained steady recognition and shown consistent growth.  Some of the credit is due to smart marketing and clever promotions, including renting the DeLorean from Back to the Future II to taxi around fortunate San Francisco residents for a weekend, or producing on-demand ice cream trucks for seven North American cities over the summer.  And the company shows no signs of slowing down, having received another $258 million in funding in early September and achieving a valuation of $3.4 billion.

Legacy transportation companies that are threatened by this new wave of tech-savvy transport – like taxi and livery services - have pursued legal action against Uber, claiming that they don’t have the proper licensing in place to offer transportation services.  But those challenges have yet to succeed, and the California Public Utilities Commission appears ready to give Uber and competitors like Lyft official permission to operate as regulated services.

The addition of the automated ETA feature is a smart way to leverage the widespread popularity of smartphones. Breakthroughs in power, connectivity, and efficiency, enabled by processors like the Qualcomm Snapdragon, let us maintain constant contact in nearly every environment. Why should it be different when you’re on route and someone else is driving?

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