Years ago I had an idea that I never did anything with (aside from blather about it to my friends).

In most major cities, there are multiple routes to get you from downtown to the suburbs and back.   During rush hour I’d like to know which way would be fastest based on real time traffic.  You could check online before you left and see if there is a major issue.  And now some GPS units will report that same information.  That doesn’t give me the fastest route, it only helps me avoid the slowest one.

What I really want is down to the second stats.  Tell me exactly how fast are cars moving on all possible routes, and given that data, automatically put me on the quickest path home readjusting as I go.  You can use my location and speed to refine the data.  As more people buy the units, the better the data is.

Imagine a city where every car has access to this data.  Each car would be routed for the best path possible in real time meaning the roads are always handling the traffic as efficiently as possible.  It’s like a massive distributed load balancer for the city.

A quick Googling shows that there are a few solutions out there now.  One that looks promising on paper is Dash Express.  Why hasn’t this caught on more?  Americans waste so much time stuck in traffic every day, and people are buying up GPS navigation devices left and right.  I would think that this would be a hot product.  And yet Dash is struggling.  From TechCrunch in November:

Dash Navigation is getting out of the hardware business and cutting 55 jobs, or 65% of its workers.

There’s a clear need for this.  The cost of traffic to business and consumers is high and rising.  And yet Dash struggles.  Was the problem the hardware cost?  It is pretty expensive ($300 + 11$/month).   It also sounds like there were some usability issues.  And the fact that I’ve never heard of these guys until now is telling as well.

This is good proof that meeting a need in the market isn’t an automatic road to success.  Product design is critical.  Where was Product Management on the usability issues?  Getting the word out is critical too.  Where was Product Marketing?  This has the potential to save you several hours every month.  Tell that story.  Get these deployed in rental cars where people can see how great they are.

This is not Field of Dreams.  You have to do more than just build something.