Thursday, Jul. 31, 2008

Dash Express In-Car GPS

There are at least one bazillion GPS devices on the market aimed at helping drivers navigate from point A to B. Most of them work pretty well, and some have cute options, such as giving you directions in, say the voice of KITT in the awesome Knight Rider car. To this we say, big deal. What is a big deal, however, is the approach taken by Dash Express, which treats its devices like the really smart, always-on, Internet-connected computers they are and allows anyone with the know-how to add applications that all the rest of us know nothings can add for free. This is genuinely cool and wonderful and about as useful as GPS gets these days.

Want to know where the cheapest gas is nearby? It tells you—with prices typically updated daily. Ever thought it would be cool to have access to Wikipedia, so when you pass a tourist spot that sounds intriguing—the Winchester Mystery House, for instance, in San Jose, California — you can decide whether it's worth checking out? You can download that app for free. Local traffic accidents, MLS listings, the ATM machines specific to your bank — all of it is available through the apps library at Dash's site. Traffic data is updated in real time, via a traffic service that Dash subscribes to, historic traffic data is compiled, and information relayed by other Dash users. You can email your Dash a location and it'll store it for the next time you're in the car. Take the device in your home and it connects to your WiFi network for free and easy updates.

The only downside is, to avail yourself of all this navigational goodness, you need to subscribe to a monthly data service that runs from $9.99 to $12.99, depending on whether you buy month-to-month or two years worth of service in advance. Oh well, guess there's no such thing as a free lunch — or in-car Wikipedia. Yet, anyway.

List price: $299, plus monthly service.

Josh Quittner