By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Dash Navigation has launched what it claims is the industry's first personal navigation device (PND) with two-way traffic.
The device, which had its price reduced to $399, recently went on sale exclusively through Amazon.com and Dash Navigation's Web site. After 30 days, Dash said the device, called the Dash Express, will be available at other retailers to be named.
The Dash Express was originally expected to launch at $599 but the company felt it "needed to get a little more into the sweet spot of where GPS devices are today … it lets us get off to a big start and really start building this driver network we're all about," said marketing senior VP Robert Acker.
Through its cellular and Wi-Fi modems, the Dash Express not only delivers traffic reports but it monitors each of its user's road-speed data as they travel. It reports the road-speed information to other Dash users within minutes, creating local traffic reports, even on smaller back roads. Traditional PNDs provide traffic only on highways and major arteries.
The Dash traffic network becomes fully operational in a small city once there are 100 Dash owners in the city. In a locale the size of Washington D.C., 1,000 users are required, and in the largest cities such as Los Angeles, 2,000 to 3,000 users are required, said Dash. But the company claims its Express offers better real-time traffic than most PNDs out of the box without a single Dash user in the area.
It uses a backup real-time traffic system from provider Inrix that delivers traffic reports gathered from road sensors and from a network of 650,000 vehicles that travel around the United States gathering road-speed information.
It also overlays the data with historical road-speed information, so it can tell you what the typical speed on a given section of roadway is at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. It breaks down this data in 15 minute increments so it may know that the roads are clearer at 9:00 a.m. than they are at 8:45 a.m.
It also adds another layer of "traffic confidence" above typical PNDs. As Dash users drive they are also "testing" the accuracy of road sensors.
"The sensors are embedded in the road by the government. We can pick up from a user that someone just went over a road sensor at 40 mph and it only registered as 20 mph," said Acker.
Dash then adds a color-coded message to tell you if you can be "moderately" or "very sure" that a traffic report in your area is correct. The key is to be able to determine if it's time to get off the freeway and brave the side roads, once you receive a traffic alert, explained Acker.
"Our beta testers said they want enough data so they can decide what to do. They want to know if we are really confident in what we're showing down to medium confidence," Acker said.
Another feature on the Dash Express is a Yahoo! Local search. The user can type in "iPod" and the PND will show all the local stores that carry the iPod. If he types in "gas," the PND will show gas-price listings, and the device also delivers movie-time schedules. It has a 4-inch by 3-inch screen, and it includes built-in GSM/GPRS and Wi-Fi modems. To receive traffic updates, the unit switches seamlessly between the modems "invisibly" to the user. A two-year traffic service plan costs $9.99/month and users receive the first three months free.
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