UNBOXED: Reviewing the Navdy Heads Up Display
As the proud owner of a 2002 Saturn L100, I’m more than happy to jump at the chance to review aftermarket car technology that can bring my ancient ride into the 21st century. So when Navdy reached out to offer their heads up display for review, I was beyond thrilled to take their heads up display literally out on the road.
My ride aside, Navdy (the product) offered a glimpse at what the future could be like with augmented reality steering the ship. It’s a topic we’ve talked a lot about recently, but to actually immerse ourselves in AR technology and take it for a spin is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
At its core, Navdy is a product intended to make the driving experience a heck of a lot cooler, but inherently more safe. Similar to some cars rolling off of the manufacturing line today with heads up displays baked right into the windshield, Navdy utilizes a piece of glass to reflect only the most pertinent information right in the path of the driver’s line of vision. That might sound counterintuitive, in terms of being a product that makes driving safer, but it’s really something that you have to experience.
According to Navdy, the display is roughly 80 percent transparent, but to me it seemed like it blended right into the windshield. And the actual information is projected onto the glass at a distance, which makes it less distracting than you’d think.
Admittedly, early on in the review process, I was a little more distracted by the display because I wanted to interact with it and see what it was capable of. But as I kept using it and it became more a part of the routine of driving, I probably started to experience the product as Navdy intended. I didn't need to pick up my phone as often, if at all, because everything I'd want to see showed up as a notification right on the display.
Setting Up Navdy
The setup process for Navdy is incredibly simple. Out of the box I was concerned that it was going to be a long and difficult road trying to get this thing installed in the car—it ships with seemingly hundreds of different accessories. But all of those extra parts are just for different sized mounts.
Navdy supplies three different height mounts, which make it easy to find the one best suited for your vehicle. From there, setup involved securing the mount base to the area of the dash behind the steering wheel, plugging the power cable into the On Board Diagnostics plug in the car, and placing Navdy onto the mount.
There are clip accessories included in the box to help keep the long power cable tucked out of the way, but I did still find myself getting tangled up from time to time as I step into or out of my car.
Navdy from behind the wheel
Navdy on the short mount
The thumb wheel control for Navdy
Navdy lets the user access their digital voice assistant
Navdy Maps view
Navdy Dash view
It might also be worth mentioning here one of the biggest first-world problems I faced with Navdy. Similar to using a GPS back in the day, Navdy felt like a product that I didn’t want to leave out of the dash in between trips to the office or elsewhere. Having an expensive looking piece of electronic out in plain sight just didn’t seem like a good idea. So, that meant I had to add a step to my routine in the mornings and afternoons that involved taking Navdy out of the glove box, mounting it, powering it up, pairing my phone, and then going. All in all, it probably only took an extra 30 seconds to a minute. But it’s enough of a process to want to leave Navdy tucked away when going on quick trips around the corner.
AR on the Road
The actual experience of using Navdy is one that was far more enjoyable than I imagined it would be. It’s fair to say that I actually felt like it improved my driving experience.
Navdy’s HUD syncs with an app to grab the pertinent information that it shows on the display. What you see can be customized in a ton of ways, but you can get everything from text messages, phone calls, emails, social media notifications, schedule alerts, suggested directions based on your schedule, access to your music library, and more. You can also easily access your phone’s voice assistant through the thumb control accessory that attaches to your steering wheel. And that’s just the stuff that Navdy pulls from your phone.
The company designed the product to be far more than an extension of your smartphone. Google Maps is integrated into the device, so you can count on receiving reliable and accurate directions. The map view itself is really simplistic, which is a plus, showing white lines for the road, a blue line for your suggested path, and traffic on major roadways.
When you’re not looking for directions, Navdy has a Dash view that shows your speed and RPMs (info it can grab because it plugs in through the OBD port), and customizable gauges that display things like the time, what song you’re playing, a compass, your schedule, a fuel gauge, and more.
The above-mentioned thumb wheel is one way of navigating the on screen options and menus. The other is through hand gestures that Navdy picks up through the front-facing sensor, which looks like a camera lens. As notifications pop up, you can either dismiss them with a hand swipe to the right, or open them with a swipe to the left.
Though the experience was a really unique one, Navdy does have some pain points worth noting.
I found that the mount itself, while secure, didn’t prevent the display from being shaky on roads that were less-than-ideally paved, which is somewhat distracting and frustrating when you’re trying to read directions. Also, the design of the product might be a little much for some consumers. I found it to be just fine, but it certainly can be seen as bulky. And lastly, the $499 price tag (though it’s currently listed for $399 on their site) is probably going to price out a good chunk of consumers.
All in all though, I think Navdy is on to something with their HUD. Even after the novelty of driving around with an AR display in front of you wears off, I found I got a lot out of Navdy. The company continues to pump out OS updates every month, so I can only imagine that the experience is going to improve over time as new features get added.