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Dash To Launch Nationwide PND Trial

San Diego — Dash Navigation will place 2,000 cellular-connected portable GPS units in consumers’ hands nationwide to test the devices, which are due for release this fall.

The company will select 2,000 consumers as a representative sampling of drivers across the country and ship them free GPS personal navigation devices (PNDs) for a May-through-summer trial. Consumers can sign up to receive the GPS device on the Web site. The company has been trialing the Dash Express in the San Francisco area using about 200 units since last fall.

The Dash Express two-way PND is one of the first “always-on” connected devices that sends and receives traffic information. Users not only receive traffic updates, but they “broadcast” their rate of travel, to contribute traffic information to the system.

Originally, Dash planned a limited summer-time trial of its two-way PNDs in California, but then decided instead on a nationwide trial. “Based on the focus work we did last summer, we realized people around the country think about traffic differently,” explained marketing senior VP Robert Acker, who was previously a founding member of the XM satellite radio team and a VP at RealNetworks.

“In L.A., the presumption there is traffic everywhere, all the time, and the focus is, ‘How can I best know when I will arrive?’ In Chicago, the focus there is avoiding construction on the freeway in the summer,” he explained.

The nationwide test/promotion “is also to test how people react to it and to see what our messaging will be when we launch in the fall,” Acker said.

The trial is expected to cost about $1 million, which Acker claims is money well spent because of the fourth-quarter timing of the launch. “In this industry, 50 percent of sales occur in the fourth quarter, so we want to make sure when do launch, it is as effective as possible.”

The company is hoping that up to 6,000 people will sign up for the trial so Dash can handpick a representative sample of nationwide users.

The Dash Express also offers advanced features such as in-car Yahoo! Local searches so users may find product information for shopping, or doctor’s addresses while they are on the road, as examples.

Other features include local gas prices, movie listings, community-based ratings for restaurants and other destinations, a choice of several routes with “accurate” arrival times and the ability to send information from Firefox and Outlook wirelessly to the Dash Express.

As for the fall rollout, Dash did not comment on its distribution plans and has not yet announced a price for its device except to say pricing will fall in the midrange of market pricing, currently in the $600 to $800 range.