A Mountain View start-up called Dash has raised $16 million from investors including two of Silicon Valley’s highest profile venture firms to deliver the first automobile navigation device designed to be permanently linked to the Internet.
From our sneak peek of this, we think the device holds a lot of promise. But in some places Internet connections are going to be shaky, so whether you like it or not may depend on where you will be driving with it. In December, the company got a $10 million injection from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins, to add to $6 million in previous funding. (See the company’s release here)
The company has been working secretly for three years. Dash’s device is significant because competing products already on the market do not have such always-on connections. Dash’s global positioning system (GPS) device, which will be updated real-time via the Internet, can avoid the pitfalls caused by new roadways or housing complexes. It can also let you search for things like nearby restaurants, and reviews. It has all sort of other uses, for example helping find more detailed traffic information, the latest weather, and it can be detached so that it can be used at home or in other cars. Even if it doesn’t reach an Internet connection, the device will store basic navigation information.
Dash will tap into the Internet via cellular and WiFi networks, where they are available. We were given a sneak preview of the company’s device by Paul Lego, chief executive, and Robert Acker, senior VP of marketing, both of whom joined the company in December. The product is still under wraps, and will first be demonstrated publicly Sept. 26-27 at the DEMO conference in San Diego.
Until now, there have been two main categories of navigation devices for cars. The first are devices like those built by Garmin, TomTom and Magellan, which a car owner can install after buying a car. The second are the devices already installed by car manufactures. In the case of the latter, the owner has to go to the trouble of getting the device updated by his dealer. And the after-market devices have their shortcomings too, because they lack always-on Internet streaming, said Lego.
He conceded that in some areas Dash will find it difficult, if not impossible, to work properly via the Internet. Sand Hill Road, the center of venture capital in Silicon Valley, is notorious for its poor cell coverage, for example.
Dash formerly did business under the name CircumNav (it changed its name today).