Life After Navdy

Navdy was a brilliant piece of hardware. Unfortunately, the company has gone belly up, and now my Navdy is just a very expensive paper weight. Or is it?

Navdy was a brilliant piece of hardware. Unfortunately, the company has gone belly up, and now my Navdy is just a very expensive paper weight. Or is it?

Back in 2014, I pre-ordered a Navdy unit, an automotive head-up-display (HUD). We owned a Škoda Superb at the time1, and while it was a great car overall, it lacked a lot in the user interface and navigation department.

As with most cars, you had to take your eyes off the road to get any information about the car. The Navdy HUD solved this by projecting everything you needed to know in your line-of-sight. The brilliant device connected to the car via the OBD II port, and used that information to show about how the vehicle was doing. With Navdy, there was no need to move your attention from the road to know how fast you were driving, or how much fuel was in the tank.

Navdy also connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This opened up a wide range of features compared to what Škoda, and most other car manufacturers, provided at the time. Navdy provided turn-by-turn navigation using Google Maps, a smooth Spotify integration, phone notifications and more.

With support for both hand gestures and voice commands, operating Navdy was a breeze. Skipping to the next Spotify song was done by simply swiping your hand to the right.

Navdy was a genius piece of high quality hardware and software. Unfortunately, Navdy didn’t manage to bring in enough money to keep the company afloat, and in December 2017 it was bankrupt.

Navdy’s Fall.

I didn’t receive my Navdy until the end of January 2017, three years after I pre-ordered it. But it turned out it was well worth the wait. The device was simply amazing, and delivered on every promise.

There was, of course a few software bug here and there, but not more than you’d expect from a innovative product like Navdy was. Most of the bugs were ironed out over time with software upgrades. Navdy got better and better, and was a trusted companion on every trip.

The Navdy pre-order set me back about $300. That might sound a tad expensive, but upgrading the outdated maps for the Škoda navigation system, would cost roughly the same. All in all, $300 was very good value for money.

When Navdy was officially released, however, it retailed at a whooping $799. The price was almost immediately cut to $599, then $499 on sale, and after a while the asking retail price settled in $399.

The Navdy HUD display layout.
Navdy worked great until it suddenly didn’t.

That a product drop to half its retail price shortly after its release is not a good sign. In December, Navdy started to throw free Navdy units at people at a daytime talk-show to spread the word about the product.

In May 2017, nearly 25% of the team was laid off. Another wave of departures followed in August the same year. In October 2017, Navdy posted its last update on Facebook, and in November the company filed for liquidation.

Some of the Navdy’s core features stopped working, and retailers stopped selling the product in December, 2017.

But Wait, Navdy isn’t completely Dead!

Even though Navdy, the company, is a thing of the past, Navdy, the device is still alive to some degree. There is a fairly active Navdy community on Reddit, and through that community I found Alec Leech. He releases unofficial firmware for Navdy on GitLab. Alec also made an unofficial Android app that fixes the broken Google maps integration.

My days of spending hours on getting mobile phones and other hardware to work with unofficial software is over. So I haven’t tried this myself. But if you have a Navdy laying around, you might want to have a look at Alec’s work.

Personally, I think I’ll try to replace my Navdy with a similar device from a company that is still in business. But that’s a topic for another post.

Footnotes

  1. Since Škoda’s parent company Volkswagen decided to screw their customers by cheating on emission tests, we sold the car in late 2015.

By Vegard Skjefstad

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