Heads Up, Automotive OEMs

(photo: Business Wire) Navigation systems tend to be a high-priced option in cars for some inexplicable reason.


(photo: Business Wire)

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Navigation systems tend to be a high-priced option in cars for some inexplicable reason. While there is some argument that it is the price of the display that makes the price on the sticker digit-intense, there are more than a few cars that I’ve been in of late—from Honda to Mercedes and beyond—that have the screen but don’t have the navigation. So much for the screen-as-price-driver.  Go to Best Buy or Costco and see how little an aftermarket system will set you back.

This reminds me of the situation about 10 years ago when some OEMs were reluctant to have anything to do with cell phones. These were thought to be projectiles waiting to cause all manner of mayhem in the event of a collision. Now seemingly all OEMs are hell-bent on having the latest smartphone-based systems—integrated with their own proprietary systems, that is. (And when one thinks of the problems that Ford has experienced vis-à-vis its quality ratings related to snafus with MyFordTouch, hell seems to be more than a metaphor.)

Garmin is a company with a name that has pretty much become synonymous with “navigation systems.” It is undoubtedly feeling the pressure of phone-based map systems (the Apple map fiasco notwithstanding).

Its response to what is going on in the car and beyond is instructive.

While it is still producing navigation systems, a product that it is bring out later this summer indicates that Garmin is a company that understands that it must change or technology will leave it on the side of the road.

It is introducing HUD. It is a heads-up display. It runs off of navigation information from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone running Garmin StreetPilot or NAVIGON apps. It comes with a transparent film that can be affixed to the windshield or the unit has a reflector lens.

The MSRP is $129.99 and the apps start at $29.99.

With Apple, Google, and Microsoft (presumably BlackBerry needs a nod, too) working hard at providing a comprehensive infotainment infrastructure for mobile devices, car makers may find their wanting to hold on to the space on the IP about as relevant as one of those hardwired cell phones in the center console of days gone by.