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Daily iPad App: Drive Assist is your new car dashboard companion

Most new cars have an in-dash computer that displays all sorts of pertinent information about your car's location, speed and other similar parameters. For those who have an older car and an iPad, you can duplicate this dashboard display with the new Drive Assist app from Woo.do.

Drive Assist is a multi-function app that lets you map your trip, monitor your speed, watch the weather and listen to music while you drive. The biggest part of the app is the navigation and Google mapping feature that updates your location and provides driving directions as you travel along your route. You need a wireless connection to pull down the map data as you drive, but you can shut off the mapping function and replace it with a music player if you have a WiFi-only iPad.

Besides navigation, Drive Assist also monitors your speed and lets you know how long you have driven and how long you have been idle during a trip. The app can save your route and driving data, so you review these stats at a later date. This is useful for commuters who want to study their stats and bemoan the fact they sat in traffic for 40 minutes on the way home from work every day this week.

The Drive Assist app is chock-full of other real-time goodies. There's a compass to keep you on track and an altimeter for those driving below or above sea level. A weather display conveniently shows the conditions outside your car. DriveAssist won't make it any easier to step outside of your cool car into the summer heat, but at least you can mentally prepare for the transition.

The app has a wonderful layout that makes it easy to navigate your trip and your music library at the same time. The font sizes and the color choices of the iPad app are appropriate for driving --- the onscreen elements are not too big to be distracting and not so small you have to squint. That being said, there is so much going on that you have to be careful that you don't get caught up in the app and drive off the road. I found it best to set everything up when I left my house and consult the app when I made a pit stop. I asked my passenger to scan the app when I wanted an update while I was driving.

I don't have any bad things to say about Drive Assist. It performed very well for me when I used it on my short day trips in western Maine. The route data and the speed statistics seemed accurate for each trip. The only thing I noticed was a bit of a lag in the GPS data, which resulted in my speed occasionally being too slow or too fast for about 30 seconds or so. A few times, the weather data was way off, but, once again, that may be a GPS data issue. If the app can't get an accurate GPS fix, it guesses my location. I am not ready to blame this wonkiness on Drive Assist as I somewhat expect these inconsistencies given the rural, mountainous area in which I live.

Drive Assist is a universal app that works well on the iPhone, but, in my opinion, is better suited for the iPad. For this review, I put aside the iPhone because its display was too small and left the Retina iPad at home because it was too big to fit comfortably inside my compact pickup truck. I settled on the iPad mini, which is petite enough to fit in a car mount, yet big enough to display all the options available in the app.

Drive Assist is an app for the driver who wants their trip statistics right at their fingertips. It's also handy for a passenger who prefers to do more than just stare idly out the window. You can download Drive Assist from the iOS App Store for US$2.99.

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