The smartest rear-view mirror in the world

The App-Tronics SmartNav 5 rear-view mirror, winner of a Best in Show award at SEMA, combines navigation, video recording, camera, police radar detector and the simple ability to see what's behind your car.

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
2 min read
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

App-Tronics SmartNav 5
The SmartNav 5 incorporates navigation software, displaying driving directions in the center of its rear-view mirror. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Automakers and equipment makers have incorporated rear-view cameras into rear-view mirrors, giving drivers a better view behind their cars, but App-Tronics takes the idea further with its SmartNav 5, bringing all the capabilities of a Windows CE computer into the mirror.

SmartNav 5 projects a 5-inch screen into the middle of its rear-view mirror. The projection is translucent, letting drivers focus on the mirror image instead of the screen if they so choose. The device features automatic day and night modes, changing the brightness so as not to interfere with the simple mirror projection.

The SmartNav 5 rear-view mirror casing includes a small computer running Windows CE, hosting a variety of useful driving apps. It runs iGo navigation software, giving drivers turn-by-turn route guidance. There is a video recorder tied to a front-facing camera, which works as an incident recorder in case of a crash, similar to current dash-mounted crash recorders. That recorder can also take input from a separate camera mounted on the rear of the car, the rear camera also serving as a live rear view for the driver when the car is in reverse.

App-Tronics even includes a Bluetooth phone connection, as the SmartNav 5 can be wired to the car's audio system. It shows performance gauges, such as a digital speedometer, but this data is derived from the GPS chip in the unit, rather than the car's own CAN bus system.

One of the more intriguing features requires an App-Tronics accessory radar detector mounted on the front of the car. SmartNav 5 shows an alert on its screen whenever the accessory detects police radar, and includes a live database of recorded speed traps.

The SmartNav5 not only includes a series of buttons along the lower bezel to bring up different features, but also incorporates a touchscreen so drivers can enter addresses for navigation. The full, icon-covered screen of the SmartNav 5 may seem like a safety hazard, but drivers can choose different themes that limit the display to as little as three icons.

App-Tronics offers the SmartNav 5 as a complete rear-view mirror replacement for cars, or as a clip-on device, covering the existing rear-view mirror. In either case, the device draws power from a wired 12-volt connection to the car.

The SmartNav 5 won the Best in Show award for Mobile Electronics at the 2014 SEMA aftermarket automotive show.

App-Tronics SmartNav 5
The full SmartNav 5 display shows an icon-laden Windows CE desktop. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

App-Tronics SmartNav 5
A performance gauge app shows data derived from the SmartNav 5's GPS chip. Wayne Cunningham/CNET