Navdy hardware (Navdy)
Many new cars are available today with a piece of jet-fighter technology called a “heads-up display,” a projector that shoots key data, like your speed or navigation data, onto your windshield, right in your line of sight.
Fighter (and some airline) pilots use HUDs so they can keep their eyes on the world outside while still monitoring their instruments. It’s safer and it lets the pilots process more information without having to shift their attention between the outside world and their inside displays.
But if you want a car with an HUD, you pretty much have to get a new car. And you have to pay up. HUDs are expensive options, often available only in packages with other high-end toys. They don’t do all that much, either.
Or you could look into the Navdy, a heads-up display for drivers that should be available early next year for $499. You can preorder it now for $299.
The Navdy gives you not just a heads-up display on car data like speed and navigation, but it also shows you who’s calling your mobile phone, what music it’s playing, who’s texting you, and so on. And you control it with gestures — like showing a thumbs-up sign to accept an incoming call.
Navdy user experience, fantasy version (Navdy)
The Navdy device is a slab of plastic you attach to the top of your dashboard, right in your line of sight. There’s a small screen that information is projected onto, and you can see through it. It sits low enough on your dash that the data it displays should not appear to be directly on top of the car in front of you, although the screen is definitely in your line of sight.
The display is full color and looks pretty good. I tried a prototype, and it was easy to read, glanceable, and not intrusive.
The device takes power from your car’s onboard diagnostic port (OBD II), not the cigarette lighter. You have to run a wire around and under your dash to the port, but it’s easier to tuck it out of the way than it would be if you had to run it to the lighter plug that’s generally right out in front of everything. The OBD connection also supplies key data to the Navdy, like speed and engine fault codes.
The prototype I saw was attached aggressively to the dashboard of a demo car, but when the device ships it will come with a mount that lets you remove the Navdy from it easily (so you can stash it in the glove box or something). The power cord will stay plugged into the mounting base, so it should be easy to snap the main unit on and off. This should reduce the likelihood that someone will break into your car to steal the Navdy, but the mounting plate itself may end up advertising that you have one stored in your car somewhere. Remember the problem people had with GPS units: Even when they were removed and hidden, the telltale round suction cup impression left on the windshield told thieves that there might be expensive portable electronics in the car.
Inside the Navdy are an Android computer and a Bluetooth radio that links to your smartphone — Android or iPhone. But the idea is that you can stow your phone and use the Navdy instead for anything you’d need to do while you’re driving.