There are a lot of good options for connecting a smartphone to your car nowadays. Newer models have integrated solutions from Apple or Google. Older vehicles can even use Android Auto now directly on an Android phone, without worrying about installing a new head unit. And in a pinch, even just sticking a phone with a GPS unit to your dashboard works well enough. But none of these experiences look like KITT, the artificially intelligent car from the classic Knight Rider TV series.
Dashbot is a Kickstarter project from Next Thing, which previously made the PocketCHIP computer. It aims to be an AI-powered hands-free car kit, and while I can’t say for sure that the goal was to be a functional version of KITT, it definitely looks like it, complete with a glowing red LED interface that pulses as it talks.
The Dashbot connects to a smartphone over Bluetooth, and can send text messages, play music, and give directions using Google Maps, similar to other connected car platforms. It connects to a car through a 3.5mm aux jack and is powered via USB or a car-standard 12V cigarette lighter power port. There’s also an optional “Retro pack,” for an extra $15 that includes a tape deck input and FM transmitter to connect the Dashbot to older vehicles.
The Dashbot is based on the Next Thing’s CHIP Pro computer platform, with both Open Source and Open Hardware, and runs Linux. So unlike Android Auto or CarPlay, it’s easy for anyone to build out and expand the Dashbot’s functionality, like adding new music services or changing the Dashbot’s voice. (I expect there to be a Knight Rider option immediately.)
Next Thing is selling the Dashbot through a Kickstarter campaign for $49, with an expected ship date in July 2017. And while the crowdfunded nature and long lead time are definitely things to consider before backing, Next Thing has previously run successful hardware Kickstarter campaigns in the past.