Add HUD to car

Navdy with phone call

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Dashboards are pretty sophisticated nowadays. Even once-lowly economy cars can have satellite radio, climate control and Bluetooth connections for hands-free phones that obey your commands and hook up to infotainment all routed through in-dash controllers. So what more do you want?

We found Navdy at CES and they sent us an early unit for a few weeks to play around with. Navdy is a dashboard-mounted aftermarket head-up display with multiple functions projected in color into your field of vision. You can see navigation, music and even texts and emails while keeping your eyes on the road. Navdy can also read you texts and e-mails aloud without you having to remove your hands from the wheel.

Many cars already have a lot of the functions Navdy offers. If yours does, then much of this might be redundant. But Navdy goes a little further by projecting information directly in your field of vision via a head up display (HUD). There is also added goodness like a simple use of gesture control to answer the phone and a handy phone caller ID. You never have to look away from the road.

When we got the big black box full of Navdy in the mail, we took it apart and began to place it in our press car, which was a fabulous Kia Cadenza that week. There are various aids to make sure the head-up display (HUD) sits right in your field of vision. We selected the setup right for that car and put it all into place on the dash via a sticky coating on a placemat-kind of substrate. You need to plug Navdy into the OBDII port (the port is called DLC3 on newer cars) under the dashboard and then connect a wire from that to the dashtop unit. So, even though there are handy clips to manage the wire and keep it in place, it’s not the cleanest setup in the world - certainly not an OE-looking install. Then you have to stow the little plastic door that covers the fuse box/OBDII port somewhere so you won’t lose it, which is a very minor pain. And be careful when getting in and out of the car that your lower leg doesn’t wipe out the OBDII/DLC3 wire. Another component of the Navdy is the thumb wheel, which straps onto the car’s steering wheel to aid Navdy use.

Navdy smart phone appNavdy keeps navigating even when you get a phone call

But once you get it all set up and start using it, you may find it helpful and even entertaining. For instance, you can load your regular addresses into “Favorites” on your smartphone before you leave the house, then they’re ready for you when you’re out driving. Most of the time the Navdy display shows a map in 3D bird’s eye view. The thumb wheel has a center button inside that you click to make a menu appear on the display. Spin the wheel around to find the function you want, for instance, “Favorites.” Pick the address you want from the list and you’re off.

The gestures function is also cool: Say you get an incoming call. The caller ID shows you who’s calling and you can swipe or wave your hand in front of the Navdy toward the left to accept the call or right to decline it. A sensor on the Navdy reads the swipes. “Glances” are short messages that can be read - or not read - also by swiping left or right. Navdy will also read aloud to you your texts, emails, even Facebook, Whatsapp and other messages. This was fun and we had it read us even the spam we get just because it was such an innovative function.

If you’re low on gas Navdy recommends nearby gas stations for you.

The Navdy smart phone app

All is not perfect in Navdydom, though. While you can preload destinations before you drive, Navdy can’t take new destination inputs from Siri or Google Now once you’re underway, which is a big hole in Navdy functionality. You also can’t browse through your music library, either. They’re working on these functions and have promised fixes starting March 14, so wait until then to buy.

After giving commands to Siri on our iPhone, Siri would sometimes stay on after we were done using it. We learned that you have to swipe left to turn it off. We often got a message saying “Your phone is locked.” A Navdy tech support guy said this was an update we needed to do to our phone to access Siri automatically. While navigation was in use, there were long pauses, two to three seconds long, when it shut off the audio we were listening to, then spoke a command, then another long pause before it resumed audio. It did that a lot. A simple “back” button would also be appreciated. Even the sadistic German luxury car infotainment systems finally added this. (Navdy says: “There is no “back” button, but there are two ways to exit the menu. It will either disappear automatically within a couple of seconds, or each menu item has an exit option.)

Moving it from one car to another was a pain. We put it in three cars altogether over the course of three weeks. By the third car we couldn’t get the HUD to click into its magnetic dash-top mount (surely something we were doing wrong but we couldn’t figure out what) and the little thumb wheel had ceased to work. Maybe the little battery died. (Navdy says: “Some Navdy customers were experiencing battery life issues. Navdy is releasing a new dial with improved to have a longer battery life.”). We just gave up, wrapped it up and mailed it all back to Navdy.

Finally, the biggest problem is price. When we got our test unit shortly after CES, the price was about $799. This was lowered a week ago to $599. When we looked on the Navdy website today (March 3) it was listed as a “limited offer” for $499 with a payment plan of $28 a month. Silicon Valley types might get it and think nothing of the price. People pay six figures for Teslas, after all.

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