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Garmin announces a portable heads-up display for StreetPilot and Navigon apps

Garmin is bringing something new to smartphone navigation in cars. Today, the company announced the late summer availability of a portable heads-up display (HUD) for iPhones running the Garmin StreetPilot app or a Navigon app. The unit will retail for US$129.99.

"HUD redefines the navigation experience by allowing drivers to find their way without taking their eyes off the road," said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. "Head-up displays currently have their place in select high-end cars, but HUD makes this technology available as an aftermarket accessory for any vehicle, at an affordable price."

The unit, designed to sit on your dashboard, will provide turn-by-turn navigation, plus distance to the next turn, current speed, speed limit and estimated time of arrival. It even lets drivers know what lane to be in for the next maneuver and alerts them when they exceed the speed limit. HUD also warns users of potential traffic delays and upcoming safety camera locations if that is a feature of the navigation software you are using. The display automatically adjusts the brightness level so the image is visible in direct sunlight or at night.

Hooking up the unit requires power from your car, and the HUD has a USB port so your iPhone can be plugged in and charged from the device itself. Garmin will ship the unit with a transparent film for the windshield or a reflector lens.

The film pasted on your windshield could give a purchaser pause, plus setting it all up will make for a tangle of cables at the top of the dashboard. Given the always-on nature of the display, battery operation is probably not an option.

The Garmin HUD is an interesting idea as an after-market device. Heads-up displays are increasingly popular as built-in features of some of the latest cars. We'll have a review unit shortly and will let you know how it works.

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