Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Dash Express Works

Dash Express GPS, GPRS and Wi-Fi
The connectivity features on the Dash Express make it a little more than your typical GPS, which may appeal to those looking for more than just directions.
The connectivity features on the Dash Express make it a little more than your typical GPS, which may appeal to those looking for more than just directions.

The main function of the Dash Express is, of course, as a GPS. In this respect, the Dash Express works like most portable car navigation systems -- a GPS chipset receives signals from GPS satellites that orbit the earth in order to determine your car's exact location. The chip then processes the information and displays it onto your GPS screen over a map, helping you determine where you are on the planet. The Dash Express specifically uses a SiRFstarIII chipset, a high-performance satellite signal processor.

The big deal with the Dash Express isn't so much its chipset, but an extra feature that gives drivers more connectivity while they're out on the road. Actually, it's really two features: The Express offers, on top of its typical GPS navigation, Internet connectivity through both Wi-Fi access and GPRS (General Packet Radio Switch).

By now, many people are familiar by now with Wi-Fi -- most laptops and other handheld devices come with built in Wi-Fi capability, allowing them to connect to any nearby network that follows 802.11 wireless standards. The Dash Express's Wi-Fi antenna and receiver connects specifically to 802.11b and 802.11g networks. GPRS, on the other hand, may not be as well known as Wi-Fi, but you may already be using it if you have any handheld devices that surf the Web -- it's a radio technology typically used for cell phones to connect to the Internet.

These two technologies constantly search for networks, keeping drivers connected to the Internet as much as possible while they're in the car. The Dash is synched up specifically with Yahoo! Local search, which can feed drivers up-to-date information on everything from highly rated restaurants, new movies, nearby apartments for rent and the nearest low gas prices.

The Dash's typical approach to ­traffic, what it calls TruTraffic, offers another small innovation -- a constantly updated network of traffic information that acts like a library built by the drivers themselves. The Dash Driver Network automatically (and anonymously) collects driver's routes and sends them to a database. The database can analyze traffic building up in one part of town and notify a driver of congestion in that area. According to its manufacturer, the more people using Dash Express technology on the road, the more information will accumulate, and the more accurate it will become.

Drivers with a Dash Express can also create a MyDash account over the Internet and use the Send2Car feature to send addresses from the home or office directly to the GPS in order to plan ahead. If the Dash Express is on, it should immediately receive the address and plan the route from its current location; if it's off, the address will cache and be resent once you turn the device on.

More to Explore