Dash assesses driving style and provides the driver with a Dash Score.
Dash is working to not only integrate the consumer driver's experience of connected cars with fluid and fun interactions — via app-to-vehicle CPU — but the Manhattan-based startup has now signed a deal with the New York City Department of Transportation to help bring its vision to the realm of municipal traffic strategy.
Beginning this summer, Dash expects to install its data tracking-and-analysis technology in up to 500 NYC volunteers' automobiles as part of a year-long pilot program called Drive Smart, funded by a $1 million federal grant and overseen by the city DOT.
"Dash is involved with the Department of Transportation, here in New York, as part of an initiative called Drive Smart," said Jamyn Edis, a co-founder of the company. "The core mission of Drive Smart is to leverage emerging technologies to … make the streets safer, number one. And, number two, to make the streets more efficient — to reduce congestion, and to decrease the environmental impact of driving in New York City.
"We are obviously thrilled, as a technology startup, to be involved in that," Edis continued. "We find the DOT executives very open, very efficient, and very progressive in their thinking … We were, ultimately, picked to participate, and we are at the beginning of the pilot."
What connected driving means for Drive Smart
Dash is a smartphone-hosted app that talks to a dongle — a hardware key — that plugs into the data port of almost every modern automobile. It's the same plug-in feature, usually located under the dashboard, near the steering wheel, that auto mechanics can use to assess what the car's computer has to say about the state of the vehicle.
Except Dash's technology pipes that data to its app. Drivers are then alerted to vehicle conditions and also prompted, in real time — primarily by audio messages — regarding their at-the-wheel behaviors. The app is built, said Edis, to conform with federal and international guidelines on driver distraction.
All of this is built around a somewhat gamified environment, one in which the app scores a driver based on his or her choices.All of this is built around a somewhat gamified environment, one in which the app scores a driver based on his or her choices. Brake hard and you might score lower. Make route choices that save fuel and put less wear and tear on your car, your score stands to increase. That’s key to how Dash envisions its technology leading to safer, more efficient roads. Drivers are alerted to the benefits of safer, efficient driving, and under the program, cities can see new quantities of street-level data about congestion and incidents — potentially suggesting changes to infrastructure that bring additional safety and cost savings.
Now, consider that functionality alongside the NYCDOT program's goals of exploring ways that technology can create safer, time- and money-saving experiences for city drivers.
Drive Smart, according to Edis, will put the company's data-gathering tech into the cars of 500 city motorists — some of them likely to be NYC employees, some of them working in the private sector. The dongles will collect information from the vehicles, in terms of everything from gas mileage to motorists' speed, to where and when traffic snarls seem to pop up.
In helping the city to turn that data into actionable reports, Edis said part of the challenge for Dash would be parsing the results, given the anticipated cross section of users that will plug in.
"There's going to be some selection bias," he said. "They're recruiting the people, possibly including city employees, so I think that you're going to have some drivers who are more mission-driven … so, from a statistical perspective we just have to make sure we're controlling the sample … comparing a control group to our larger population" of Dash users.
That means anonymizing Dash's tens of thousands of current participantsThat means anonymizing Dash's tens of thousands of current participants, and then comparing those identity-scrubbed data sets to Drive Smart drivers' actions. This, Edis said, will help compensate for the relatively small size of the program’s sample set.
“The 500 will be enhanced with the millions of data points we get from our broader data set (5 million miles so far), so their access to data to make inferences is much larger than just the 500 subset,” he said.
According to Bruce Schaller, the DOT's deputy commissioner for traffic and planning —speaking, in August 2013, to the Wall Street Journal — the program "will create a revolutionary new set of metrics for us … it's a new way of seeing the streets."
Despite several attempts by Mashable, in May 2014, the NYCDOT did not respond to requests for confirmation of Dash's involvement in the program. Instead, the department said, it "is currently discussing options with companies that replied. As you may know, the agency released its ‘request for expressions of interest’ to explore potential technology that could help drivers save money and time, and to drive more safely."
Next for Dash: Worldwide users (and taxis, too?)
According to Edis, the Dash partnership with the one-year Drive Smart program is expected to hit the road during the summer of 2014.
Adding its connected-car app to the 500 autos in question, however, is only one step the startup is taking this year. The international version of Dash launched on May 20, adding the app to drivers' repertoires in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, so that "individual drivers can opt to use Dash to improve their driving, save money, reduce their carbon footprint, and make driving more fun," Edis said.
Dash is also reaching out to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, seeking "to participate in a similar program," to Drive Smart, said Edis, "to help improve the driving of taxis — making taxi-driving safer, essentially, but also helping to reduce their costs."
The consumer app is available to Android users. An iOS version is forthcoming in the near future.