Dash is now taking preorders for its next-generation navigation system. It’s one of the biggest breakthroughs in navigation technology and points to a time when we’ll all be connected as we drive down the road at 65 mph.
Unlike typical GPS devices, Dash is connected to the Internet via either a GPRS cellular connection or WiFi. (Some high end TomToms, like my new TomTom 920, can be paired with Bluetooth cell phones and use their data connections.)
Among the features this two-way connectivity enables:
- More up-to-date content. You don’t have to worry about updating map and point of interest data; it happens automatically. Dash uses Yahoo! Search to find points of interest.
- Additional content types. Want to see where the best Christmas lights are or what’s happening around town? The real-time connectivity allows you to search for the latest information. In theory, you’d be able to pull up images of your destination from flickr or Google’s Street View. Want to know how much that home you just drove by goes for? Pull up Zillow. Dash will offer support for GeoRSS and KML, making it easy for third-parties to provide content.
- Live traffic. Dash uses other Dash units to help you determine what your commute will be like. Each Dash out there serves as a traffic probe.
- Send-to-car. Send destinations to your car from your PC. I was driving the other day to meet my brother and he called to say he had moved since I last talked to him. I had to pull over to re-program the GPS. With Dash, he could have sent a new destination to my car.
- See where your friends are. Although I don’t see this in the specs, a connected GPS could be used to show you where your friends are. (TomTom offers a similar feature.)
One way to think of Dash is as a location-enabled, mobile-optimized Web browser.
The biggest challenge Dash faces is pricing. All of these features and connectivity don’t come cheap. Prices on basic GPS units have almost fallen into the stocking stuffer category, with many units at $150 to $200.
Dash seems to be missing many of the features found in high-end ($400-$600) PNDs: Bluetooth hands-free calling, MP3 player, voice recognition and a picture viewer.
Dash retails for $600. In order to use the advanced features described above, you have to pay a monthly fee of $12.99. It’s $9.99/month if you prepay for two years, making the cost about $840. You won’t see that in many stockings.