Garmin HUD Got Discontinued, But Not Trashed

The Garmin HUD+ was a small Bluetooth device intended for the dashboard of a car, meant to be used as a GPS heads-up display for data from Garmin smartphone apps. It used a bright VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) which was viewed through a clear reflector, and displayed GPS information and directions. It was discontinued in 2015, but [Doz] was fond of his and used it happily until a phone upgrade meant it no longer worked. Was it destined for a landfill? Not if he had anything to say about it!

The first thing [Doz] tried was using an alternate Android app, but since it also didn’t work, it was time to sit back and reflect on the scope of the issue. In [Doz]’s case, he really only wanted some basic meaningful data displayed, and decided he could do away with the phone altogether if he had the right hardware.

A GPS receiver and ESP32 board take the place of a mobile phone app that no longer works. The HUD display itself is unchanged.

A u-blox GPS module and ESP32 board were the keys to making a standalone device to display meaningful data on the Garmin HUD+ over Bluetooth, thanks to the fact that the protocol used had been reverse engineered. After a lot of troubleshooting, [Doz] got some basic functions working: speed, time, satellite count, and a working compass arrow. The GPS receiver and ESP32 live in a small 3D-printed enclosure, and the HUD? It stays on the dash just like it always has, forever in 2015, blissfully unaware that the march of smartphone technology has left it behind.

His code is on GitHub and there is a video demonstrating the the unit embedded below, just under the page break. It’s always nice to see VFD displays given new life.

8 thoughts on “Garmin HUD Got Discontinued, But Not Trashed

  1. VFDs are beautiful, have a nice glow that LED/LCD can’t quite match. They’re now officially on the endangered tech species list which makes VFD-upcycle projects like this even better.

  2. Given the photons that thing must be cranking out, I would have thought screen burn would kill that even before the app support stopped. Impressive (as are the R-E skills on display. Pun acknowledged.)

  3. I would say the term “HUD” is a bit inappropriate for these pieces of plastic. Real HUDs (like in my X5) project the data onto the special windshield and focus them a few meters in front of the vehicle, so that the eye doesn’t have to switch between near and far. This is a huge advantage compared to the classic dashboard, especially when you are getting into the “reading glasses age” ;-)

    So a retrofitted *real* HUD would be an interesting thing.

  4. Thanks for posting this! My 2002 Aztek had a HUD, no VFD but an bright amber low-res LED display instead – it was great until the OEM/compatible replacement windshields became unavailable. Love VFD’s and we try pull every one out of end-of-life tech that comes into our shop.

  5. Got given a Garmin Hud which I was going to trash. Just spent about an hour or so cobbling together an ESP32, UBLOX6 module and some jumpers to prototype this and it just worked! Not tried it in the car but running up the garden the Hud showed my low speed and direction of travel :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

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