In addition to flying, I spend a lot of time behind the wheel of my scuba blue Audi station wagon. With California’s tough new laws that forbid even holding your mobile phone while driving (for any reason), I was psyched to see the recent rollout of Navdy, a new device makes it possible to handle communications and directions while you are staring straight ahead at the road. This new category of automotive device is called a “HUD” which is short for “heads up display.”
Navdy calls itself “the world’s first augmented driving device.” It links up with iOS and Android smartphones and projects information onto a small transparent screen that sits directly in front of the driver. So it really does augment your driving experience.
“Navdy lets you make and receive calls, listen to messages, control music, receive calendar reminders and stay connected to the apps on your phone,” the company says. “Navdy also connects to your car with Navdy Dash to show your speed, RPM and automatically recommend nearby gas stations when your fuel level is low.”
This video gives you an idea of how it works:
Last month Navdy shipped me one of its devices to try and write about for TravelSkills. Here’s what happened…
Opening the box- Navdy costs $599 and with a price like that, I have high expectations for everything, including packaging. The device is shipped in a slick, square black box, inside of which are four stacked trays of various components. Impressive and intuitive. I thought I might be able to hook it up without even reading directions.
Installing it- I deferred to the quick start instructions, and getting it all hooked up took me 30-40 minutes. First I unloaded everything in the box and laid it out in the passenger seat. Next I cleaned the dash (with a special wipe in the box) and placed the sticky side of the rubber mount directly in front of the steering wheel, then snapped in the Navdy unit, flipped up the clear screen and removed its protective sleeve. Then I took the cord and ran it down the left side of the dash and under it where it plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostics (OBD) port– that’s for power and also to let Navdy know what’s going on under the hood, like when the car is low on gas. I also wrapped its small rubber control dial to the steering wheel, which is used to scroll through menus on the screen.
Downloading the app to smart phone- Navdy works in tandem with your smart phone, so you need to download an app to synch everything. Once connected and enabled, Navdy allows you to answer calls using a swipe of your hand, and then talk via your car’s Bluetooth system. It will read texts to you. This is how it keeps your hands off your phone when you are driving, but also allows you to remain completely connected. The dial mounted to the steering wheel allows you to scroll through menus, or even access Siri.
Trying it out for the first time- It felt like something out of Star Wars or a fighter jet, looking out the windshield and simultaneously looking through a moving map of my car on the grid of San Francisco. I was able to easily adjust the lens to my eye level. The map was bright and crystal clear. Using “glances” I can see heavy traffic ahead, fuel, who is calling me, and what’s playing on the stereo. If I wanted it to, it would even show my calendar, my Twitter and Facebook alerts and Gmail headers, but I feel like that’s just a bit too much info, so I did not enable those functions. When driving, the device uses its own maps, which is fine, but I have grown accustomed to using Waze, which is currently not available on Navdy– so there will be a bit of a learning curve.
Using hand gestures- The Navdy device has a motion sensor, so I’m able to accept calls by swiping my hand right over the steering wheel. Swiping left hangs up. Pretty cool!
Parking- Living in San Francisco, I have it constantly drilled into my head never to leave anything of value (or perceived value) in sight in a parked car to avoid theft. The Navdy device is discreet, but it’s right there on the dash– however it’s not all that difficult to remove (it’s magnetically attached to the mount) and stash under the seat.
Overall, I really liked it. If I had a job that required frequent car travel, it would be a dream come true… almost like sitting at my desk while behind the wheel, fully connected, but hands-free and compliant with increasingly stringent driving laws.
For a limited time, Navdy costs $599. If you don’t like it, you can return the unit within 30 days for a refund. For details, go to www.navdy.com.
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