I should appreciate this by now, but tech products don’t just “come out” as effortlessly as they appear to. I have been chasing this estimable new car accessory, Navdy, since 2014, when it was first mooted in the States. It’s a head-up display satnav (plus more) for older vehicles, as well as the majority of new ones. I have an email from three years ago saying working Navdy units wouldn’t be available until 2015. Well, it took another two years but it’s finally here, and I like it a lot. It’s not quite love, but I’m tempted to buy, as I greatly prefer older cars and head-up GPS is not an option in anything pre-2010 or so. Having said that, the auto HUD I’ve used is pretty rudimentary – just an arrow appearing in your windscreen field of vision indicating the next turn. Navdy displays rather more information – a mini map of where you are, as well as road directions, a speed readout, even messages and other notifications if you set the accompanying phone app to display them. This can’t be a safe option, but the Navdy app will also, if you wish, read out texts and emails through your car’s audio system.
On the other hand, Navdy isn’t truly head-up; it’s more head, or eyes, slightly down to the pop-up screen. It’s more augmented reality, perhaps, than true fighter-jet head-up. But the time it takes to see Navdy’s directions is far less than glancing at a screen in the centre of the dashboard, fitted to most good recent-model cars. Navdy also has a gesture-control feature, but it’s not great – the rubbery strap-on steering wheel control knob is way better. So all in all you get a highly sophisticated, more-or-less head-up display in most cars going back to around 1996 – you need an onboard diagnostics port, but these were common by the turn of the century.
Navdy is a gadget for people who like gadgets. But there are downsides. It doesn’t quite fit seamlessly into your driving life as it’s fiddly to put in place – it would, for example, take 10-15 minutes to fit to a rental car. The software is also a bit cranky, although it is constantly updated. And I hope they adapt the Americanisms for local markets; I found the English accent talking about “traffic circles” and “highways” irritating. But if you are gadget-inclined, it’s very, very good. Just take time to learn its ways and be forgiving of its quirks; it’s worth it.