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Heads-up displays -- ones that don't require users to look away from the road -- have been available to high-end luxury cars for years, but have yet to filter down to mass-market vehicles. Even in luxury cars, HUDs are often a pricey option. The HUD from Garmin brings the high-end navigation experience to any car for a fraction of the cost.
The HUD is a small box that sits atop the dashboard. It offers two ways to view directions. It can project them onto a thin film that is applied to the inside of the windshield, or it can project them onto a reflector lens that attaches directly to the HUD. Either way, Garmin claims that the HUD provides "crisp and bright directions" that are in the driver's line of sight and viewable at a glance.
[ On-the-fly data exchange between moving vehicles is just around the corner. Read Big Data: When Cars Can Talk. ]
In order to get those navigation details, however, users need to pair the HUD with a nearby smartphone. The HUD works with devices running Android, iOS, or Windows Phone, but not BlackBerry OS. It uses an accompanying application on the smartphone that sends the details to the HUD over a Bluetooth connection.
According to Garmin, the HUD offers a wide array of features, including turn arrows, distance to next turn, current speed, local speed limit and estimated time of arrival. It also lets drivers know what lane to be in ahead of turns, warns of upcoming traffic problems, and even shows where safety cameras are located along a given route. These details are presented in a simplified way that Garmin claims improves driver safety because it keeps their eyes on the road, not their smartphone. The HUD is viewable both at night and in direct sunlight.
In addition to the visual navigation cues, the HUD also can be used with spoken turn-by-turn directions when used with a compatible Garmin-made application. The directions are spoken by the smartphone or the car's hands-free system, not the HUD itself. The visual navigation details will stay on the windshield even if the accompanying phone receives a call.
The HUD goes on sale later this summer and has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $129.99. In order to function properly, though, it must be used with Garmin's StreetPilot or Navigon apps. Both apps start at $29.99 for regional maps; the full U.S. map costs more. The maps plus the hardware come to at least $159.98 before taxes, but that's still far below the cost to add a heads-up display to most cars from the factory.