Delight in a DASH: Quantified Self for Your Car

We’ve all heard that commercial that asks, “What’s in your wallet?”  Well, soon enough we’ll all be asking, “What’s in your car?”

Imagine for a moment you’re about to go on a road trip, when you receive a phone notification about a potential issue under the hood that needs to be resolved to ensure a safer trip.

Once you’re on your way, your car’s telling you to slow down and stop braking so hard – you know, to reduce ware-and-tear.

Finally, you receive a post-trip evaluation with constructive feedback on ways your trip could’ve been safer and more fuel efficient, helping you save money on gas and long term maintenance.  Imagine no more.  Welcome to the world of Dash.

Dash, often thought of a Fitbit for your car, is an innovative approach to helping you measure, maintain, and improve the health of your car.  The ultimate goal with Dash is to create safer drivers, cleaner roads, and enable a more social approach between man, machine, and environment.

How Dash Works

Jamyn Edis and Brian Langel, co-founders of Dash Labs, Inc. saw an opportunity to leverage the huge amount of data that was available in a largely untapped source – automobiles.  Using a small device that plugs into the generic sixteen pin On Board Diagnostics (OBD II) data port (a standard part in all cars these days), it will sync with the Bluetooth on your cellphone and collect copious amounts of data and put it into cohesive usable feedback for the driver.

I recently caught up with Jamyn and asked him about the inspiration for Dash and the vision of making it a delightful user experience.  Here’s what he had to say.

Jamyn, thanks for taking the time to share some of your insights and thoughts about the creative process of Dash, as it relates to delight.  Tell us what your inspiration was for creating Dash and how the user experience fit into the design.

Well, with so much data available from automobiles, I really saw an opportunity to harness that information and create a more communicative interaction between a driver and his car.  The ultimate goal of course is creating safer drivers who put less wear and tear on their cars and then gives people a social platform to share info about their road trips and driving capabilities.

With regards to the user experience influencing the process, it was about creating 3 distinct applications for Dash feedback.

  1. Pre-Transit Feedback – Delivering value to the customer before they even start their trip. This would include things like making them aware of possible issues with the car, tips on having a safer trip, ways to minimize the wear on the car, or even considerations about the route.
  2. A) In-Transit Passive Mode – This would involve downloading data about everything that’s going on with the car and the driver during the trip. Crucial data to provide feedback to the drive after the trip is over.B) In-Transit Active Mode – This mode is the auditory mode or the Knight-Rider mode if you will. It will let you know when you’re braking too hard, over-accelerating, warn you if there’s an issue with the engine, etc. The user interface is of course scaled back to minimize driver distractions.
  3. Post-Transit Feedback – This obviously gives you feedback about how you did on your trip regarding your driving. It’s more about giving you constructive feedback than it is about chastising you. It’s meant to be fun, inspirational, and constructive. For example, based on the data from your trip Dash might give you 3 tips to drive safer and reduce the wear on your car on the next trip.

How does DASH differentiate itself from others in the industry like Automatic?

DASH started in May of 2012 and at that time Automatic wasn’t in existence.  However, on the face of it, DASH and Automatic are quite similar but certainly there are some distinct differences.  Automatic is more about the hardware and providing Safety and Cost Saving aspects.  While DASH covers those issues – certainly, we’re designing Dash from a 3 level perspective: the consumer level, the developer level, and the enterprise level which involves insurance companies and dealerships.

More to the point however, I wanted to keep Dash fun and simple so I told the developers to take a look at Path and RunKeeper and go from there.  It’s important we keep it a fun interactive experience and to that end I compare Automatic as the Menlo Park in design whereas Dash is the Gritty New York of design.

How do you manage to keep ‘delight’ a focal point of the design throughout the process?

Initially we went with gut instinct and really thought about what it was that we would want – as consumers/drivers ourselves, what is it we would want from Dash?  Throughout iterations of Dash, we gathered quantitative information to help guide us and more importantly, we got qualitative feedback from the users themselves – yes we like this, that and the other, but we don’t like this, this and that.  From continuous research we make adjustments along the way.  Ultimately in the end we’ll deliverer a product and service that works for what it’s intended for but also makes people happy and provides a delightful user experience.

From your perspective, what are some inhibiting factors for an entrepreneur that can prevent them from creating a product or service that delivers a delightful experience to the consumer?

For entrepreneurs, I think there are two things that can really get in the way of delivering a delightful experience to the consumer.

  1. When you have a very complex and technical product it’s easy to become focused on just making it work and by default deprioritizing the idea of creating a product that delivers a delightful experience.
  2. When you’re dealing with deadlines, the pressure to get product to industry can sometimes cause a hastily created product and maybe the end result doesn’t deliver what was originally intended.

As a Final Thought, Jamyn Adds:

As someone who gets pushed and pulled in a million different directions, it’s important I make it a priority to stay involved with and work with the designers.  I love working with the designers.  I’m always giving feedback on the design and as someone who loves the simplicity of a pencil sketch on a napkin; I like to stay involved to make sure that that simplistic process isn’t lost.

The opportunities that Dash presents for third party involvement and the end-user are seemingly limitless.  The results being a plethora of possible delightful user experiences all being driven by (haha pun intended) Dash.

If you want to learn more from Jamyn and Dash labs, join him during his half day workshop Design Thinking for Startups Oct. 7th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Delight Conference 2013. (Or catch his panel discussion with Nike+ Accelerator’s Dylan Boyd on Tuesday!)