Unlike most of us, Mohit Chopra of Bethesda, Md., has been beating traffic successfully for months because his GPS system doesn't just tell him where to turn, it tells him where the traffic is.
A new system called Dash provides real-time traffic information for the route you are traveling right on your dashboard. Though other companies have their own systems almost ready for release, Dash Express beat them to the finish -- it hit stores today.
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"As a consumer who used to rely on the radio for my traffic information, I always hoped to hear something about my specific roads … our device actually gives you that personalized information -- not only on highways, but we can also tell you what traffic conditions are like along the arterials around you," Mark Williamson, director of product management, Dash Navigations, said.
Said Chopra: "I save at least 15 minutes, so I can spend more time with my daughter. I'm sold. It's a great system."
Dash evolved from an idea born in a traffic jam.
"[It] kind of felt like it was ridiculous that cars couldn't talk to each other," said Williamson at Dash Navigations. "That just seemed logical. If a car's stuck in traffic, why can't it share that data with all the other cars to help the other people? We do that with traffic. That is really what we're doing. We are having cars talk to each other about traffic data."
This is how cars talk to each other: Your speed and position are transmitted to cell towers, so when you slow down, that's beamed down from satellites to other Dash drivers. If you run into a traffic jam, your information gets beamed up and distributed to other drivers who can then reroute and avoid the same jam.
"This really is the epitome of not only social networking, but the broader idea that consumers can share information in meaningful ways," Williamson said.
The more drivers who join the network, the more accurate the system will be.
"As we add more and more drivers to our driver network, our traffic data is just gonna get more and more accurate," Williamson said. "And we don't need millions of drivers in a metropolitan area to get great traffic data. It turns out, for an average metropolitan area here in the U.S., we need just a few hundred drivers to have great traffic data during commute hours."
Avoiding traffic jams is great, but this new system also connects to the Internet, so when you're looking for gas, it tells you not just where a station is, but the price per gallon the station charges. Dash user Chopra said another one of the perks is that the system cannot only find gas but coffee, too.
"My favorite coffee is Dunkin' Donuts, so on the Web site, I put in my favorite things to do, so I can search on the machine every time. I don't need to search for it," Chopra said.