First used in military fighter jets, the head-up display (HUD) falls somewhere between a tech and safety feature. The device reduces dangerous distractions by displaying key information, such as a car’s speed and navigation directions, directly in the driver’s line of sight. Some systems project information onto the windshield, while others project it on a separate screen.
HUDs are becoming increasingly common in new cars, but, thankfully, you don’t have to trade in your older model just to get one. Several aftermarket solutions let you modernize your current ride, whether you prefer an affordable device or a high-end product with a price tag to match. Below, we’ve singled out some of the best ones.
Garmin Head-up Display ($150)
Garmin’s HUD adheres to the motto that simpler is always better. It’s a small, lightweight device that sits on the dashboard and projects information either on a transparent film that needs to be affixed to your windshield, or on a reflector lens. The brightness of the display is adjusted automatically.
The device provides turn-by-turn navigation directions, the posted speed limit, and the location of speed cameras, which comes in handy should you try to beat its estimated time of arrival. The unit needs to be paired with a compatible smartphone via Bluetooth, however, and Garmin stresses it only works with StreetPilot for iPhones or Navigon for Android devices. Sadly, Google Maps is not compatible with this HUD.
The Garmin HUD is also relatively compact so it can be moved around from car to car. It’s not as feature-intensive as some of the high-end units on our list, but it’s priced at a reasonable $150.
Buy now from:
Navdy is the most comprehensive aftermarket HUD available. It’s a small device that attaches to your dashboard and displays information on a transparent screen. It performs all of the basic functions you expect: it gives navigation directions even when it’s offline, it provides your car’s current speed, and it can be configured to show a digital tachometer.
That’s plenty for many motorists, but Navdy takes in-car connectivity a step further. It responds to voice commands and recognizes hand gestures, so the driver can make a simple motion to answer — or ignore — a phone call. It even comes with a Bluetooth-enabled dial that attaches to the steering wheel to let the driver select songs, contacts, or routes.
While some HUDs relay information shown on a car’s instrument cluster, Navdy offers many features normally accessed via a dash-mounted touchscreen. The trade-off is that the latter isn’t cheap — pricing starts at $800.
Buy now from:
The Exploride HUD is similar to the Navdy unit but it comes with a more budget-friendly price tag. It’s designed to sit on top of the instrument cluster, and it projects information on a transparent screen that’s located right in the driver’s line of sight.
The device gives navigation directions even when an internet connection isn’t available, and it provides email notifications as well as news and stock updates. It responds to gesture controls, so the driver can take a call or raise the volume with a simple swipe, and all of its features are accessible via voice commands. Motorists can take their music – and their friends – along for the ride because popular apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Twitter, and Facebook are built into Exploride.
Pricing starts at $500, but there’s a catch: you can’t buy the Exploride quite yet. Early adopters can pre-order the device for $299, and the company expects to ship the first units in the coming months.
Pre-order now from:
Chicago-based startup Cognitive AI Technologies promises its voice-activated Carloudy HUD helps drivers stay focused on the road ahead. It’s not for motorists who want to Skype, Tweet, Snapchat, or text from the driver’s seat.
Carloudy displays navigation directions and useful information such as the speed limit and the car’s current speed. It also warns the driver of traffic jams caused by road work or accidents and can calculate an alternate route if needed. Information is sent to the Carloudy device from the user’s smartphone, and from the car’s on-board computer via a Bluetooth connection. That means it will offer fewer functions in older cars that aren’t Bluetooth-compatible.
The information is projected right on the windshield. Cognitive AI Technologies promises it has patented a design that ensures the display is clearly visible, even in broad daylight.
Motorists can pre-order the Carloudy HUD for $259. Carloudy is making final touches to the device, and a spokesperson for the company told Digital Trends the device is scheduled to ship in the four to six weeks.
Pre-order now from:
Carrobot is billed as the world’s most powerful HUD. Designed by a Beijing-based company called Ileja Tech, it’s a compact device that projects information onto a built-in transparent display. Like a digital co-pilot, it provides turn-by-turn navigation directions and real-time traffic information. It can also be configured to emit audible and visual warnings if it detects the car is swaying out of its lane, or that a collision is imminent.
Motorists can use the Carrobot device to find nearby places of interest, including restaurants and gas stations. They can also sync the HUD with their phone to access popular social media platforms like Twitter, make phone calls, send text messages, and request a song from Spotify. Alternatively, a SD card slot lets users load a playlist directly into the device.
Ileja Tech is currently accepting reservations for its Carrobot HUD on Indiegogo. Pricing ranges from $199 for a basic device to $499 for a more high-end unit with the aforementioned driver assistance features. Deliveries will begin in March of this year.
Pre-order now from:
Updated 3/21/2017 by Ronan Glon: Added information about Carloudy’s expected shipping date.