Like Driving in the Future

Last year, we had to buy a car. After I had managed to avoid having to purchase two tonnes of high speed death for years, I finally caved. After doing a lot of research and test driving, we eventually settled on an estate model from Škoda. Before 2000, Škoda would not even have been an option. The Czech company’s reputation in Western Europe wasn’t the best, but that changed completely after the car manufacturer became a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen. Our decision to go for a Škoda model was based on recommendations from friends, that the particular model we purchased had lots of room for Vilde and everything we need to bring with us - her stroller fits effortlessly in the back - that the emissions are fairly low for that type of car1 and that the pricing was competitive.

While we haven’t covered huge distances with the car yet, we’re pretty pleased with it and I recommend it everywhere I go. The only thing that’s really disappointing is the built in navigation system. Having tested navigation systems in other people’s cars, I didn’t expect much, but the Škoda Amundsen+ really sucks monkey balls. The features and usability isn’t too bad, but the maps are terrible outdated - and maps have to be considered a pretty essential part of a navigation system. On our way to Sweden this summer, the satnav suddenly told us we were driving offroad, but I swear we were still driving on a perfectly paved road. Not only that, the road we were driving on had been there for years, but apparently never made it to the Škoda maps. How hard can it be2?

So instead of crappy, outdated maps, I naturally want to use better and more frequently updated maps. I had an old Galaxy Tab laying around and decided to try to use that and Google Maps or Waze instead of Škoda’s sorry excuse for a navigation system. Plus we get easier access to Spotify in the car, which is a great bonus. Unfortunately, about half the times I connect the Galaxy Tab to the cigarette lighter to charge it, the fuse for the front seat and passenger seat cigarette lighter blows. This pretty much makes using the Galaxy Tab a non-option, but I’ve got a few spare fuses now, so whenever I’m feeling adventures I still charge it.

In the long run, however, my stock of spare fuses will eventually empty and I’m guessing there’s a reason why fuses blow: There’s something not quite right with the Galaxy Tab. Every other device I’ve attached, like my Nexus 5 and Anniken’s iPhone have no quirky effects on the car’s electrical system. In other words, I need another solution to the Škoda Navigation Challenge.

Enter Navdy. It’s like driving in the future.

What’s this witch craft? A portable heads up display (HUD) that connects to my cell phone? HUDs in cars is nothing new, a lot of high end, executive style cars come with HUD technology and you can even buy portable HUDs from many well-known manufactures already, like Garmin. But as far as I know, no available models has the same impressive feature list as Navdy. The Garmin HUD, for instance only works with Garmin software, which you have to buy separately (of course you do), and it has no idea what music or text messages are - it’s a navigation-only HUD.

Another really neat Navdy feature is that it connects to your car’s OBD II port. The OBD is an on-board diagnostics port used to connect to the car computer to extract data like current speed, RPM, mileage, fuel, engine status and so on. If you have a car built after 1996, your car probably has an OBD II port hidden away somewhere close to the passenger seat. Navdy also uses the OBD II port for power, so there’s only one wire and it can easily be hidden away, at least in our Škoda.

Based on all this and my weakness for new gadgets, I went ahead and pre-ordered a Navdy unit. Cool! But I do have some reservations. Of course I do.

Firstly, since I’m an early adapter, there’s bound to be some bugs and quirks the manufacturer hasn’t been able to iron out in the first Navdy batch. Getting the unit repaired or replaced will be a giant pain in the ass since I have to ship it all the way across the pond and probably pay import taxes (again) when the unit is shipped back to me. Secondly, I’m not sure if the Navdy will actually fit on the dashboard in our car. I fear it’s too tall and will actually block some of the view of the road, making it a driving hazard - pretty much the opposite of what it supposed to do. In a worst case scenario, the unit has to be placed closer to the mid-point of the dashboard. But it’s hard to know if this is a problem before I actually have a physical unit to test.

And last but not least: Does it actually work as advertised? Well, we’ll see in a few months time. The first units are scheduled to ship in the beginning of 2015, but we all know what happens to schedules and deadlines: They tend to change quite a bit over time. Still, some time during 2015 our Škoda will turn into a fighter jet of sorts and all our navigation plagues will be a thing of the past.

Or maybe not.

PS: If you decided to pre-order a Navdy unit yourself, I’d love it if you could use my referral link. With every order placed using the link, I’ll get a $30 discount, and I’d really love me some discount.

  1. What I really, really wanted was a Tesla Model S, but no. ↩︎

  2. Map updates are available from Škoda on SD cards, but they cost almost USD 300. What the fuck is up with that!? I’ll have to check with Škoda if upgrades are covered by the warranty. They certainly should. They should at least give me a free update to get the maps updated to what the world looked like when we got the damn car. ↩︎


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