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Dash Debuts Two-Way Car GPS/Appliance

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — A start-up company called Dash Navigation will introduce next month one of the first two-way portable navigation systems designed for the car.

Led by numerous technology veterans from companies including XM Satellite Radio, General Electric, RealNetworks, Logitech and Etak, the company plans to offer a GPS/information appliance that also offers cellular and Wi-Fi “always connected” access to information on the Internet.

Company CEO Paul Lego says the product and service will not only offer standard turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic, but information such as the traffic speed of the routes nearby. It not only lets you know there’s a gas station down the road, but the price of gas; and not only tells you where there’s a movie theater, but what is playing at the theater.

The company also plans to create a network of drivers that report on traffic speed. The data is then fed to a central service which broadcasts it to the drivers in the Dash “community.”

SVP marketing Robert Acker, who served as VP marketing and VP of product development at XM from launch to 2004, said that Dash hopes to accomplish the above “with an interface that works at 55 miles an hour.”

The product and service is expected to launch in California in the first quarter of 2007 followed by a national launch that summer. Further product details are being kept under wraps until Sept. 26 at the DEMOfall show in San Diego. Presently, the company is testing 50 units in the San Francisco area, soon to expand to a volume beta test of 300 units, said Lego.

Lego noted the company is aiming at mass market pricing and is “well aware” of the current prices of portable GPS devices (often at $499, with some models at $300 and below).

“We’re creating a device that physically looks like a portable navigation device, but the different between what we’re doing and a standard navigation device is this is an always connected, information appliance in your car,” he said. Acker adds, “Think of all the information out there on the Internet that you could use if you only it had while you were in the car.”

The company noted, however, that the first generation product will not offer e-mail because of driver safety.

Dash Navigation says it has been in operation since 2003 and has 44 employees, 35 of which are engineers or in positions that are engineering related. In December 2005 Dash closed a round of funding for $5 million each from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. The former has funded such ventures as AOL, and Google. The latter has funded Cisco, Yahoo! Apple, Oracle and also Google. Seed funding was provided by Skymoon Ventures.