How To Be A Safer, Greener And More Socially Connected Driver: An Interview With Dash CEO Jamyn Edis

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The momentum behind the connected car is unstoppable. We’ve already seen how cars networked to automakers’ safety and assistance services help to save lives. In addition to linking with smart devices, we are now seeing cars that can swap signals from sensors in traffic lights, buses, and signs along the road to warn of accidents and cut congestion.

Our cars will continue to become smarter. To find out more about smart vehicles, we spoke with Jamyn Edis, Founder and CEO of Dash, an app that connects your car’s computer to your smartphone, and uses data from your vehicle to track, analyze and improve your driving.

To begin, let’s start with simplicity. What is a connected car?

The short answer is the ‘connected car’ has turned into a catch-all phrase for any technologies that connect a car to something else – be it a phone, the internet, another car, transit infrastructure or some sort of mesh network. For example, car manufacturers all looking to develop cars that have some kind of 4G wireless access, with WiFi hotspots built into the vehicle. What we do at Dash, however is a different flavor of what might be described as ‘connected car’ technology.

So basically, your car is a giant smartphone?

Exactly. You can think of the connected car as the ultimate mobile device. Albeit, a three-ton mobile device. In fact, there are more lines of code within a car than a lot of the computing devices that we use today. Some estimates are upwards of 100 million lines of code in some modern high-end cars.

Cars have been computers on wheels for many years already, they just weren’t viewed as such. Not only are there are millions of line of code in a car, but also 30,000 mechanical parts and hundreds of electronic sensors in every vehicle. The car was truly one of the first “Internet of Things” devices.

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How are tech companies and startups developing products for platforms for connected cars?

If you consider the connected car from the perspective of a large tech company – such as Google, Apple, Microsoft or Samsung – rather than simply connecting to a network, these companies are thinking how they can own the operating system and user interaction – and ultimately the data – in the car dashboard. Every one of these companies is looking to figure out how they can own that touch-point with the consumer.

Then you have the insurgent startups that are looking to bring new innovations to the connected car. My company, Dash, uses a small, low cost piece of hardware that can connect to any vehicle (models after 1996(, which gathers hundred of pieces of data about your driving behavior and your car’s performance. At Dash, it is our goal to help people drive safer, drive greener, and to add a social layer to the driving experience, all while saving you money on gas, repairs, maintenance and, ultimately, insurance.

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How do you make driving more social?

At Dash our core mission is making driving smarter, safer, cleaner, more affordable and more social. In the last 12 months since launch, we’ve been installed by hundred of thousands of users and driven tens of millions miles with Dash. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can do with this data. Longer-term, we see what we are doing as building the ‘automotive graph’, a data platform around driving, which can be leveraged by many different stakeholders.

If you look at the sectors that have embraced social, industries like education, healthcare, retail, you wouldn’t assume they would be social, However, these industries have been transformed through social, enhanced with a layer of social data to improve their interactions with users. This is the same approach we have with driving.

How will connected cars make our lives more convenient, our journeys greener, and our roads safer?

Traditionally, people have thought of a car as something that gets you safely from Point A to Point B in the most comfortable or affordable fashion. That is the most basic function. Now, more and more people are realizing there an enormous amount of data around who is driving, what they are driving, where they are going, who they are with, what day of the week, things like that. If we can connect our cars to the smart grid, think about how this could improve everything traffic management, congestion reduction, ride sharing, safety enhancement or green driving incentives.

That kind of information would probably be of interest to other stakeholders as well.

We care about ‘drivers’ – that applies equally to a consumer (e.g. commuter, a parent, a teen driver) as to an enterprise (e.g. delivery, fleet, dealership) or municipality or agency (e.g. Department of Transportation, Taxi & Limousine Commission).

Other related industries can be impacted too. For example, we work with billboard companies, who can leverage that data to provide brands and advertising businesses with a much more targeted opportunity, whether for upselling static billboards or more efficiently placing digital ads.

All these diverse parties can benefit from the platform we are creating built around an activity (driving) on which we spend a lot of time and money on a daily basis.

How do you enhance the driving experience with social functionality?

Driving has a unique psychological element to it. What you drive – and how you drive – says a lot about the image you want to project.

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One way we tap into this psychology is by offering each driver a score out of 100. Our scoring algorithm takes into consideration vehicle performance and driving behavior, like speeding, hard-braking, time of day, whether you are using your phone or not, etc. Based on all of this data, each driver gets a score for every drive, and can see their score trending over time.

Drivers can compare themselves on a leaderboard, share their trips on social networks, and also unlock tangible benefits like cost savings promotions and reduced insurance rates.

And one final fun question, what’s your dream car?

Coming from England, and raised on a diet of Hollywood road movies, I have a great affinity for convertible cars. Whenever I drive outside of New York City, I usually rent a soft-top Mustang or something corny like that.

The ironic reality of the situation is, as an entrepreneur, with a startup, living in NYC and not paying myself a lot, I don’t own a car. However, the flipside to that is that I use Zipcar all the time, so I always get to drive different cars. So, from a business perspective, I get the luxury of using Zipcar to test new versions of Dash of a bunch of different models, without needing to own them, which is useful.

About Jamyn Edis

Jamyn Edis is the founder and CEO of Dash, a connected car platform (www.dashmobile.co). Jamyn is also a mentor and angel investor in Techstars, the world’s premier technology accelerator, as well as being a participant in the New York 2013 program.

He is currently a Marketing Professor in New Media and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at NYU Stern School of Business. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA/MA from Cambridge University.

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