Trying to look up directions or respond to messages while you are driving is an incredibly risky affair, but a new device will change all that. Touted as Google Glass for your car, Navdy puts maps, messages, calls and apps on your dashboard. It will start shipping in early 2015 for a pre-order price of $299, with retail units selling for $499 later on.
Unlike Glass, Navdy isn't something you wear. It sits on your dashboard and projects images and text onto a 5-inch flip-up glass screen. The built-in projector's output is 40 times brighter than an iPhone's display, according to Navdy, which is supposed to make it easy to see when bright sunlight is streaming in through your windows.
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Navdy says the projected image is transparent and appears to float six feet ahead of the driver so it doesn't distract, but during a preview with a prototype, I did not see anything beyond the glass display. This is likely because we were in a conference room, not a car, during the demo, and because the prototype wasn't fully functional.
The device pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0, so you can get incoming calls and messages over the air. To answer, you can wave your finger in front of the device, mimicking a swipe movement. Your gestures will be read by the onboard camera. Swiping left or right toggles through pages or dismisses calls, while a thumbs up action confirms tasks.
You can also make calls via voice control (like "Call Mom") or dictate messages. At launch, the system will provide turn-by-turn navigation via Google Maps. You'll also be able to stream music via Pandora, Spotify, iTunes or Google Play Music.
Running a customized version of Android 4.4 with 8GB of storage, Navdy also pulls in data from your car's onboard diagnostic port (most cars built after 1996 have this) to display pertinent driving information such as speed, fuel information, tire pressure and revolutions per minute (RPM). You can customize this to highlight what's important to you, such as a bigger RPM gauge.
When a call or message comes in, the screen splits into two to show the dashboard on the left and highlight the notification on the right.
Navdy needs to be plugged into your car's OBD II port for power and works with phones running iOS 7 and later or Android 4.3 and up. The company plans to release an SDK, so developers can create apps for its platform and make the system more useful.
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Staff Writer Cherlynn Low, 26, still doesn't have a driving license. Follow her @cherlynnlow and on Google+. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.
The distracted driving problem is only going to get worse until practical solutions are offered. The heads-up display is the best I've seen so far. If it works as advertised, I wouldn't hesitate a moment to put it in my children's cars.
I assume more connectivity is coming for all vehicles - but I thought this was a pretty cool toy (one that could still get people to run into others unintentionally).