Even if you never drive and text, you only have to be asked so many times “do you want me to help you DJ/navigate?” by your passengers before you know you still might have a behind-the-wheel device usage problem. As a chronic (and embarrassed) checker of directions and changer of tracks while driving, I was immediately attracted to Navdy for its potential to make me a safer driver.
The Navdy is a heads-up display system that’s based on a simple observation of modern life: our mobile devices aren’t going away, even in the car. So the dash-mounted Navdy does the next best thing: it connects to your phone to allow you perform the most important interactions without taking your eyes off the road.
And having that ability is amazing. It’s like driving with super powers that also make an older car like mine immediately more modern. The execution isn’t perfect yet, but it’s already so good and so promising that my main nitpick is that it can’t do more.
First impressions and setup
Right out of the box, Navdy impresses with its slick packaging and high build quality. With first-rate finishes and materials, the unit and its components are a pleasure to handle. You’re rewarded again once you seat the Nady in its magnetic mount, which clicks in with a satisfying thunk.
The hardest out-of-box moment was finding my 2009 Altima’s OBD II port, which transmits data from your car to Navdy. Navdy’s app, which works in tandem with the dash unit, walks you through it to make every step straightforward. From cable management to bluetooth pairing and fitting the control wheel, you can tell the Navdy team has put a lot of thought into making setup a no-brainer.
Once you get the screen angled correctly, what’ll immediately stand out is how bright it is, even on a sunny day. Navdy says it’s 40x brighter than an iPhone screen, and it shows. If it’s ever too bright, triple click the button on Navdy’s control dial to adjust brightness at anytime. The control dial, by the way, is an intuitive and smart way of navigating the HUD interface. It’s so good that it actually renders Navdy’s built-in gesturing system somewhat unnecessary, and feels so natural that you can easily imagine manufacturers building the wheel and button into future steering wheels.
Customization & Glances
Once the Navdy is up and running, it can be customized to your liking. Within the dash view, widgets on the left and right of the speedometer can be customized to display the information most useful to you, including upcoming calendar appointments, fuel economy, trip progress, and more.
You can also customize Navdy’s notifications, called Glances, from the app. Basically any app that can send your phone notifications is Glance-eligible and when it pops up, you are presented a preview that you can read on screen (Navdy also reads it through the speaker system) or dismiss.
It’s probably best to be selective about the apps you turn on for glances. Despite having your eyes closer to the road, glances are still distractions by nature.
Navigation, voice search, and music control
Navigation and music are the primary reasons my eyes stray phonewards while driving, so I’m happy that Navdy handles these well. To take advantage of the navigation, you have to use the Navdy app (no integrations exist yet with Google Maps or Waze), but isn’t a big deal once you get in the habit and adjust to the new navigator voice. Navdy’s has a maps view dedicated to navigation, and it does the job well.
You can also use voice search for a new destination, but since there’s no built-in Navdy mic, it’d better be quiet for your phone mic to clearly pickup your destination (or Siri, which is just as frustrating to use in Navdy form as it is on the iPhone).
When listening to music, double-click the dial at any time to pull up the current song and pause or advance the track. For selecting playlists and songs within them, Navdy only offers support for Apple Music for now, so here’s to hoping that Spotify and Soundcloud are added next. The same is true for maps. While Navdy’s navigation is fine (and works offline, which is a huge plus), the ability to continue using Google Maps would be nice. Old habits die hard.
If you’re a tech-inclined driver, Navdy won’t necessarily make you a safe driver, but it will very likely make you safer. The ability to stay on top of notifications is going to be most useful for busy people who are constantly commuting. For the rest of us, having the ability to do maps and music while keeping our eyes on the road (and passengers less freaked out) is still enough to feel like you are Robocop and might legit save lives down the road.
The possibilities it opens up will leave you hungry for more: more two-way interaction and integration with your preferred map and music services. That being said, especially if your car doesn’t already have the latest in bluetooth or steering wheel tech, the Navdy is a nice piece of gear that’s seriously worth considering. navdy.com, $499
Want to win a free Navdy? As part of Shift’s summer giveaway, they’re giving away ten units. Drawing is next Monday (6/26), so enter now.