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Dashbot Will Turn Your Old Car Into a Smart One for $49

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【Summary】Dashbot was created by Next Thing Co., an Oakland, California and Shenzhen, China-based startup responsible for the release of CHIP and compact Linux computer PocketCHIP. The device is a rectangular dongle that is designed to sit on top of the car’s dashboard.

Original Michael Cheng    Nov 28, 2016 6:12 AM PT
Dashbot Will Turn Your Old Car Into a Smart One for $49

According to a USA Today report, there are over 14 million cars in the US that are 25 years old. For vehicles between 16-24 years old, that figure is 44 million. In the next five years, IHS analysts speculate that cars over the age of 12 will make up 15 percent of vehicles on public roads.

These outdated units are some of the last batches to get left behind in the rapidly evolving smart car trend. If you're an owner of an old vehicle and want to take advantage of the latest developments in the sector, you have to options: buy a new car or purchase a Dashbot. The latter option is a hands-free, in-car controller that looks like a throwback gadget from Knight Rider.

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No Screen, No Problem

Dashbot was created by Next Thing Co., an Oakland, California and Shenzhen, China-based startup responsible for the release of CHIP and compact Linux computer PocketCHIP. The device is a rectangular dongle that is designed to sit on top of the car's dashboard. Individuals can control the unit, which connects to the user's mobile phone via Bluetooth, using their voice while driving. The friendly AI assistant connects to the vehicle's 3.5mm AUX jack for audio functionality and a 12V cigarette lighter port for power. For really old cars, you could purchase the "Retro Pack" to boost connection through the tape deck (costs an additional $15).

The upbeat device is capable of executing basic commands like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa. You could tell the Dashbot to send SMS messages, provide directions from the Google Maps app and play music. Its Open Source and Open Hardware features, based on the company's CHIP Pro computer platform, allow tech-savvy users to expand the functionality of the device, such as changing the bot's voice or name.

"Because Dashbot is based on C.H.I.P. Pro, you can teach it new tricks. Dashbot runs Gadget OS, our mainline Linux based fast-booting operating system. Like all Next Thing Co. products, Dashbot is Open Hardware, its software is Open Source, and of course, Dashbot has an open API," said the Dashbot team, during an interview with TechCrunch.

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Get Smarter Today

The startup is currently offering the Dashbot for $49 on Kickstarter (shipping in July 2017). You can't beat that price for something this incredibly simple and powerful, which can even be installed to process car data using a wireless OBD-II sensor. This device does not come with a giant screen that can distract you from driving on open roads. Hence, you'd be forced to rely solely on its voice-powered features to initiate commands. From a safety perspective, this could reduce visual distractions while navigating around the city.

"A lot of the interactions we have with our phones are designed for us to look at the screen," explained Daven Rauchwerk, creator of Dashbot. "It doesn't matter if it's in driving mode or whatever else, if you ask it a question the response is very often visual. That encourages us to look at the display, which necessarily means not looking at the road."

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