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Navdy's Answer To Distracted Driving

A heads-up display promises safer access to your smartphone while driving.

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Navdy, a San Francisco-based startup, makes its case for its heads-up display for cars with a non-sequitur.

"It's a heads-up display just like what commercial airline pilots use when they're landing," says an avuncular actor in a YouTube video. "You hear that? Pilots use it. It's safe."

That's dubious logic. Commercial aviation safety isn't easily compared to automotive safety. Pilots aren't using Navdy's equipment. And usage of a system by pilots doesn't in and of itself make the system safe.

Heads-up displays (HUDs) might be less distracting than dashboard controls. Navdy can fairly claim that its approach to in-car smartphone interaction -- voice commands and gestures, sent to apps on a smartphone through the Navdy HUD unit -- is less distracting than fumbling with a smartphone while driving. But there's more to distracted driving than where the driver is looking.

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A 2007 study conducted by researchers at Munich University of Technology and BMW found that HUDs in cars present information more efficiently than HDDs (heads-down displays, or traditional dashboard controls), and keep drivers' eyes on the road for longer periods. But it also cautioned that HUDs have some disadvantages, such as reduced peripheral vision, distance overestimation, and attention capture.

A 2004 NASA study of HUDs in aircraft offers a similar assessment: HUDs have benefits -- and costs -- for attention. Both studies conclude that more study of HUDs and attention is needed. In other words, the issue is too complicated to declare, "It's safe."

If safety is the goal, the best option would be to set one's smartphone aside while at the wheel. But that would endanger Navdy's investors.

Navdy might be trying to distance itself from Google Glass, which managed to prompt bills in at least eight states -- Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Wyoming -- to ban or regulate use of the computerized eyewear while driving.

Perhaps a better question about Navdy's hardware would be, "Is it necessary?" It isn't, but it's appealing, particularly for those who cannot discipline themselves to leave their smartphones unmolested while on the road.

When it ships in early 2015, the Navdy HUD will make popular iOS and Android navigation, music, and communication apps visible in its dashboard-mounted display using a simplified interface. It promises to enable easier turn-by-turn navigation and in-car messaging.

The device is currently available for pre-order at the discounted price of $299. Its expected retail price at launch is $499. There's no subscription fee.

Is it safe? That depends on how it's used and who's behind the wheel.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
8/26/2014 | 9:20:20 AM
HUD nothing more than eye candy redundant dash gauge views on windshield.
These HUD type display units are all fine and dandy eye candy.  Sure it has some function but how much display do we really need.  It is not so much the driving and texting hazards as these inputs with these type devices could and should only be performed while jammed up stuck in traffic stationary or crawling along snail like stop and stop, which BTW we all do every day for 15-30 minutes each per day during our commutes.  But it is the redundancy of these things with this Navdy and other type HUD devices.  Why do we need 2 speedometers, 2 tachometers, 2 fuel guages, texts, excessive gps?  And who the heck cares.  We don't really need to check on our speeds every second while driving or tachometer or radio station or fuel reserves.  And who really needs the directional gps type, or radio station info all the time anyhow, even if we did want to know this stuff?  Who really wants to meet Adam for coffee as in the Navdy promo video picture or needs to have this info displayed like it is important or something.  Most time the coffee appointments and such I would think would be taken care of elsewhere.  Not important in any case really.  This HUD HOOPLA is not productive to us really.  Useful possibly, but not productive, it is eye candy bubble gum in a nutshell.  There are other way more productive heads up type options and devices available for converting our dashboards to desktops.   
User Rank: Ninja
8/7/2014 | 1:12:55 AM
I'd like to say that the author is no way endorsing Navdy HUD or its claims. IW is mostly reporting what's coming next year.
Nonetheless, some cars are already using HUDs. Navdy seems to have developed (?) the next evolution of it.

In a few years, as someone mentioned below, once driverless or automated cars become more available, this kind of thechnology will be very useful.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2014 | 1:21:34 PM
Re: Stuipdity on wheels
You can be sure that plaintiff's attorneys have already started files on Navdy.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/6/2014 | 9:19:26 AM
Re: Stuipdity on wheels
I associate HUDs more with jet fighters than commercial aviation, although they apparently have made it onto some jetliners. Regardless, HUDs are used selectively (not for the data on every guage and dial) and only for critical pieces of information intended to improve safety (or in a military context, situational awareness). There are some HUD technologies that make sense for automobiles, for example to help the driver to see better in the dark, if they improve the actual operation of the car. But that's where it should stop.
User Rank: Ninja
8/6/2014 | 8:36:03 AM
Following Glass' road
Like the article points out, I feel like this will just end up being blocked in several states like Google glass wearing during driving. It sounds 'safer' than looking down at your phone, but not looking at your phone at all during driving should be the ultimate goal.

However, this is all stopgap technology anyway. Once automated cars start becoming more common, we won't need to worry about being destracted while behind the wheel. 
User Rank: Author
8/5/2014 | 6:42:24 PM
Re: Stuipdity on wheels
I doubt airline pilots get heads up display of their text messages. I suspect they get heads up display of information needed to fly the plane. There's a risk associated with where your head is while driving, not just your eyes. 
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2014 | 6:21:10 PM
Re: Stuipdity on wheels
As the author I'm not surprised at your defense.  And, the last line of the story suggests "Is it safe? That depends on how it's used and who's behind the wheel."

The facts - identified by the agencies I cited, long ago - suggest any form of distracted driving is dangerous regardless of the user or usage.

This isn't a case of selective reading, the sub-headline is nothing but a form of click -bait.  But I rescind my admonishment as every other tech rag has picked up on the story, even the expression of concern for the "investors".

Too bad efforts, from the carriers on down, don't make a better attempt to educate regarding the THOUSANDS of injuries and fatalities linked directly to distracted driving.  But I do commend your efforts to distance yourself from the safety claims made by Navdy.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2014 | 5:08:08 PM
Re: Stuipdity on wheels
From the article:

In other words, the issue is too complicated to declare, "It's safe."


If safety is the goal, the best option would be to set one's smartphone aside while at the wheel. 

You have to be reading very selectively to conclude the article accepts Navdy's claims.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2014 | 4:49:46 PM
Stuipdity on wheels

Seriously, the biggest concern is over the investors? The national highway traffic safety administration, the California highway patrol, and dozens upon dozens of other organizations and agencies are very clear on distracted driving. Nothing is so important that it can't wait. Put the darn phone in the glove box and deal with your little Facebook updates when you've arrived at your destination. The only thing this contributes to is the dumbing down of not just America, but the world. 

Shame on InfoWeek for suggesting this actually contributes to safety.

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