Dash Diary: Going to the Chapel

Editor’s Note: One of the main features of the Dash Express GPS navigator, which we reviewed in March, is that it is the first plug-in navigator with an always-on cellular connection to the Internet. This lets you conduct live Yahoo searches for destinations, but, more importantly, it lets you receive live traffic data from other Dash-using drivers. Here is a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH9f2zUXct0) showing how it works.
Theoretically, the Dash will become more useful as more people buy the device, and their driving data is added to the collective. To see if the service is actually improving, we gave one to our resident GPS expert, Troy Dreier, to test out over a number of weeks. This is his first entry.
Yeah, I love using the Dash Express and yeah, I think it’s the future of GPS navigation—but man, I wish it would overcome its quirks soon.
I took the Dash with me during a recent weekend as I drove to a wedding on Long Island. The Dash proved to be a real help, twice warning me that traffic conditions had changed on my route and offering to re-route me. But other times, the Dash’s quirks made me wish that the company would hurry up and improve the software.
Problem 1: Almost immediately after leaving New Jersey, the Dash warned me that the route I had chosen now had traffic that would delay the trip by 30 minutes. Great, that’s what it’s supposed to do. I chose a new route and was off. But as soon as I got through the Holland Tunnel, the Dash recalculated the route and put me on the old, longer route. I knew the quicker way (up the West Side Highway) and drove it, but the Dash kept trying to re-route me back to the slower route.
Problem 2: After checking in at my hotel, I set out to the wedding destination on Shelter Island. Now, Shelter Island is only accessible by ferry, but the Dash said there was no way to get there! Other GPS devices, such as the Magellan Maestro 5310, can manage ferry crossings. Google Maps can manage them. It was a major pain that I couldn’t rely on the Dash for that leg of the trip.
Problem 3: My trip back Sunday was pretty slow, as end-of-weekend traffic on Long Island always is, but the Dash did a good job of picking the quickest route. It would have helped if there was more user data—there seem to be few Dash units on the road, even this far after launch—and I saw surprisingly little historic traffic data for my route.
That’s why the Dash missed the biggest headache of the weekend: the 30 minutes it took me to go three blocks to the Holland Tunnel. Tunnel traffic usually isn’t too bad, but sometimes it’s just awful, and this was one of those times. Before the Dash becomes truly useful, there need to be a lot more units on the road so that drivers are warned about any slowdown that could affect their trip.
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