Garmin interface refines menus, adds HUD

Garmin showed off the latest iteration of its K2 infotainment system at CES 2014, with better information flow and windshield projection.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Garmin K2 with HUD
Garmin showed off the latest version of its K2 infotainment system, along with a head-up display on this dashboard simulator. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Current automotive infotainment systems tend to scatter icons for different functions willy-nilly over many screens, but Garmin refines this information flow on its K2 system and adds a head-up display to help drivers keep their eyes on the road. Garmin showed off the latest version of its K2 system at CES 2014.

The K2 system is an OEM product that an automaker would install at the factory, rather than one of Garmin's traditional navigation devices. The K2 software covers navigation, audio playback, telephony, smartphone integration, and app integration.

With latest version of the system, information flow has been simplified. For example, when a driver looks up a destination, the resulting entry not only shows the address and telephone number, but offers a link to the business' Yelp entry. Most current app integration in cars treats Yelp as a separate feature, which must be accessed outside of the navigation system.


With the K2 system, Garmin could integrate other appropriate apps, such as Opentable, with the destination screen.

Likewise, instead of separating audio sources by radio, stored media, and online apps, all audio sources show up on one screen in K2. Drivers can organize it with their favorite music sources on the initial screen. Music playback screens also uses a common layout, no matter what the source, to make them easier to use while driving.

Garmin refines K2 driver display (pictures)

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The bottom of each screen includes a button that brings up what Garmin calls a Toolbox, a small panel of icons for quick access to different audio sources or other infotainment functions, such as a saved address. The driver would be able to customize these icons with favorite functions.

The accompanying head-up display (HUD) projects specific information -- and gives the driver some controls -- in a graphic on the windshield. Garmin demonstrated how the HUD could show both a standard and interactive display.

While underway, the system shows useful information such as vehicle speed and turn-by-turn directions just below the driver's eye level. When the driver puts his hand near a roller switch on the steering wheel, the HUD changes to show navigation, phone, or audio controls. The driver can switch through the different set of controls by hitting a mode button.

For each function, the K2 HUD shows a limited set of options the driver can choose, such as music source presets, quick-dial phone numbers, or saved addresses for navigation. This limited interaction lets the driver operate the K2 infotainment system safely, without looking away from the road.

Garmin emphasized that it designed the HUD fonts and colors specifically with safety in mind.

The K2 system is not currently used in any production vehicles. A Garmin spokesperson said the company is working with an automaker, and expects to have K2 released in a 2017 model year car. The system is scalable to different vehicle segments, but the cost would likely put it up in a medium or premium car segment, according to the Garmin spokesperson.

Garmin's biggest automaker client is currently Fiat, which includes Chrysler group vehicles.