The idea of a connected car can be intoxicating. As I have written about previously, time inside the car is a frontier for consumer attention, content, and experiences. It will transform, no doubt – but how we get there is less certain. Lately, the chatter is around having the big phone makers to port their current mobile operating systems to our car’s dash board. Sounds reasonable, until we consider that (1) car manufacturers may want to fiddle with their cars’ APIs and interfaces, and (2) there will most certainly be strict government laws around what types of apps could appear on in-dash systems.
Through some of my experiences with startups that create products primarily used in the car, these are issues I’ve spent a bit of time chewing on. Earlier this year, I was stopped by a cop on a motorcycle on a quiet street by my house because I touched my phone to adjust the volume while stopped at a stop sign. Luckily, I didn’t get a ticket and I didn’t realize it was illegal to even touch your phone while driving. Of course, millions break this rule daily, but I believe all parties involved want to find a solution and interface that drivers can interact with their phone while driving safely.
I met the CEO, Doug, a few times, and it was clear that he and his founder had deep technical experience. Their idea, Navdy, was a little piece of hardware (the size of a bigger Android phone) that held a larger piece of glass and prism. These components sit on your car’s dash, and transmit data from key apps from your phone (maps, music, communications) through the glass and prism into a heads-up display that appears to float on your windshield. Check out the video, it’s kind of cool:
Navdy is not just the hardware — it is really a new UI for the driving experience. Navdy is creating a new UI for the driving experience, one that includes a HUD, touch less gestures and glance able apps. Today’s UI in the car is terrible. Knobs, buttons and touch screens (of any size) force you to take your eyes off the road. With a smartphone: when a phone call comes in your nav app disappears and worse you then have audio turn by turn directions interrupting your conversation. Navdy fixes these issues with a UX that is dramatically better.
From an investment point of view, this is going to be a challenge. I invested a bit earlier than I normally do, and I was happy to see some great institutional investors eventually come into the round. I have no doubt that Doug and his team will build a great hardware solution, taking data from my phone and transmitting to Navdy and letting me use a mix of gesture control and voice control to interact with my phone. The precise bet here, however, is that while the phone and car makers will want to control the interface and experience of drivers, my belief is consumers will want data and control to rest on their phone, and Navdy gives them a way to interact with their phone while driving. This one will take a while to bake, but that’s OK – that’s what it’s all about, and Doug has been embattled before as an entrepreneur, which made it even easier to get involved.