Dash provides smart car navigation

Tech Culture

SAN DIEGO, Calif.--Anyone who has ever used a car navigation system knows that it is a wonderful, if flawed, technology.

While it helps drivers get to destinations with a minimum of fuss, the typical car navigator falls victim to unexpected traffic delays, and thus, can leave drivers stranded.

But at the DemoFall conference Tuesday, a Mountain View, Calif. company called Dash Navigation unveiled what it thinks is the solution to the problem.

The Dash navigator uses either Wi-Fi or cell network connectivity to provide users with real-time information that, if it works as advertises, could cut down on driving blindly into traffic jams.

The secret sauce seems to be the utilization of real-time route information sent automatically back to Dash's central servers by each Dash user's equipment. Then the central system sends specific route and traffic information back to individual users so that they can benefit from the experience of fellow Dash users ahead of them.

Of course, the benefit offered by the aggregation of traffic data is only as good as the total amount of information being sent back to Dash. Thus, it will clearly depend on a critical mass of users in order to work as advertised.

Dash also offers another impressive feature that could help drivers adjust their routes on the fly, or when they've forgotten where they're going.

That's because it allows anyone at a Web-connected computer to send new addresses to Dash users. Then the new addresses appear instantly on the driver's navigation system, which provides directions just as quickly.

The system is expected to be available in California in January and in the rest of the U.S. later in 2007. It will require a subscription, which the company says will cost about as much as satellite radio service.

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