Open Road

8 questions with Navdy's creators

Taking the basic concept of a Head-Up Display (HUD), and then entirely reinventing it, is not an easy task. Navdy does not only project a car's diagnostic data (like speed or RPM) onto a transparent lens. Instead, it radically rethinks the way our smartphones interacts with our car—all while making us safer behind the wheel. 

To get a better sense as to the magnitude of this challenge, we asked some of Navdy's key creators a series of questions:

Q: What’s been the single hardest thing about designing Navdy’s user interface?

Devon Frohne, Senior Designer: "Single? Let’s just say designing the future of driving is a lot harder and more nuanced than getting people excited by the concept. Our biggest challenge, since day one, has been to reconcile form with function, smart with easy, safety with accessibility. Sure, there are tons of features that we could implement, like reviewing archived messages or allowing video chat, but do they enhance the driving experience? Do they extend your reach to the world without requiring your attention? To that effect, we’ve focused our efforts on fostering utility through simplicity, showing you only what you need to see right now, so you can keep your eyes focused on the road."

Q: The road is always visible through the display. How does the Navdy interface work in front of such a dynamic, moving background?

Devon Frohne, Senior Designer: "It’s fair to say that designing an interface with a backdrop of constant motion hasn’t been easy. Designers often use motion to attract and direct attention, but in the car, it’s actually the opposite. Motion calls for minimalism, so we’ve done everything to identify and reduce distraction from your view, including simplifying the information, providing hierarchy, implementing simplified typography and iconography, and even focusing the color scheme. What have we learned? That the best connected driving experience is fast and lightweight."

Q: How have you architected the Navdy display to be bright enough for daytime visibility?

Tome Karo, Optical Engineer: “We use a few tricks. First, our light engine (the device that generates the image you see) is super bright. By the time the light reaches your eyes, it’s made its way through a few other innovations, including scattering off a screen made of material with a carefully designed geometry to redistribute the light so that no photon is wasted, and off a curved display mirror coated multiple times to improve reflection and reduce glare. But showing a bright image isn’t the full story…we’ve had to do quite a bit of footwork to provide a wide dynamic range to dim our super bright images sufficiently so as they’re not distracting at night.”

Q: How have you ensured that Navdy is viewable by different drivers, in different seating positions, in different cars, driving in different conditions—all out of the same box?

Tome Karo, Optical Engineer: “We’re faced with the huge diversity of seating arrangements, dashboard configurations, driver heights, and steering wheel positions. We’ve had to design our HUD to accommodate as many seating situations as possible. Our short, medium and tall mount options work for almost every individual and car: it optimizes the optical system to display a crisp image overlaid onto the road ahead at a comfortable distance, viewable simultaneously from multiple perspectives. We’ve also enhanced the “eyebox” (that’s display-talk for viewer positions where the image is visible without any deterioration in quality), to be as large as possible.”

Q: How well does Navdy function when viewed from behind polarized sunglasses?

Tome Karo, Optical Engineer: “Unlike other display technologies that use laser diodes as light sources, Navdy uses bright LEDs that produce randomly polarized light. We also don’t use polarizing liquid crystals, and we avoid large reflection angles in the optical path to avoid polarizing the light. Succinctly? It works great.”

Q: From a technical standpoint, what made Navdy such a complicated product to build?

Lars Gilstrom, Principal Electrical Engineer: In short, everything. At length, Navdy integrates a few different leading technologies: miniature displays, Bluetooth connectivity protocols, high-level precision optics, and just about every type of circuit imaginable. Try fitting them all in the same form factor and making them all work together flawlessly, and in thousands of different types of cars simultaneously, and you’ll have a baseline of what’s kept me busy.

Q: Why is technology like Navdy only a reality now?

Brandon Lynne, Director UX: Navdy is the synthesis of a ton of complex mechanical technologies, each with their own nuances that we’ve successfully orchestrated into a unified experience. We had to build a driver-facing camera that accurately captures and interprets a gesture vocabulary of our own design, regardless of lighting and road conditions, running a user-interface we built from scratch on hardware we architected, integrate it with existing OBD and Bluetooth standards, and make sure it fits into and works with as many cars as possible. Who said building the future of driving was going to be easy?

Q: How did you decide what information Navdy displays for the driver?

Brandon Lynne, Director UX: The challenge for us was less about what to display, and more about what NOT to display. Our mission was to reinvent driving for a world where communication isn’t just available, it’s expected. With that in mind, we’ve designed the Navdy user interface to act as a “car mode” for your phone while you’re driving: as simple and as distraction-free as possible by minimizing the amount of information displayed while presenting what’s most important. Those factors are constantly changing based on dynamic variables like environmental, road, and light conditions, so we’ve constantly refined the experience for every possible scenario.

Navdy Staff

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