We road tested the futuristic Azentek SmartMirror and got the feeling that it could be the next big GPS must-have or the next big safety hazard.A short history lesson
The humble GPS has come a long way since it was first developed as a tool for military use in the 1970’s. It wasn’t until the Soviets intercepted and destroyed a Korean Boeing 747 passenger airliner that President Ronald Reagan allowed GPS to be used for the benefit of worldwide civilian use thereafter.
In the late 90’s, we started to see factory installed GPS units appear in a number of high-end vehicle models, but the cost was majorly prohibitive to most. Fast forward a decade and witness the growth of the windscreen mounted GPS. Popularity has also increased as prices have steadily decreased; a decent model now costs around $300.
Different types of GPS
There are three main types of in-car GPS available:
- factory installed in-dash models
- windscreen mounted models
- mobile phone enabled models
Azentek have just added a fourth category – the rear-view mirror model.
|Look into the mirror, but don't look for too long while driving|
The future of GPS versatility may rest with Azentek’s clever use of interior cabin space. By integrating the car’s rear-view mirror with an a fully functioning GPS and camera mode, drivers will have everything they need in map data, Bluetooth and car cameras in one single easy-to-view area of the vehicle. The $1499 SmartMirror is the kind of futuristic accessory we all know George Jetson would of had in his hover air vehicle.
How it works
Based on what we saw during our road test demonstration, the driver is able to select between viewing between two different modes: GPS and camera view.
The camera view helps to illuminate a vehicle’s blind spots, by switching to a camera feed that routes footage from any number of pre-installed pinhole cameras mounted within the car. There is no limit to the number of cameras that can be installed in a car; the SmartMirror is able to switch between various camera views to assist the driver in areas that are often the most difficult angles to see on a car.
The GPS mode is probably going to be the mirrors talked about function. Gone are those annoying windscreen models that have the tendency to move around and fall off. By placing the GPS onto the factory installed bolted mirror, the leads (which have the tendency to get tangled on the windscreen models) are hardwired through the roof and across the dash into the battery.
The Smartmirror can only be factory installed by Azentek designated specialists to ensure DIY enthusiasts don’t install this high-tech gadget incorrectly. It’s also bolted onto the windscreen to deter thieves who love to make a meal ticket of stray windscreen mounted GPS units, of which remain easy targets in unoccupied vehicles.
The Smartmirror is powered by the standard GPS setup: 400Mhz ARM920T processor, 64MB of internal memory, Bluetooth and doubles as a Windows media player. However, don’t expect the SmartMirror to be able to play file sizes larger than 2GB (via an SD slot), in what may be very annoying to some drivers.
The SmartMirror features its own internal speaker, so it's not the type of unit that plays your MP3’s in stereo quality – it’s strictly meant for GPS voice guidance. There is also an added stylus for big fingered drivers who can’t quite reach the teeny weeny buttons.
The GPS works from a NAVTEQ map, contains over 1 million POIs in 26 different categories and as an added optional extra, 4WD enthusiasts will enjoy the use of ‘Aussie explorer maps’ for adventerous off-road action.
By our standards, the GPS appears typical – it’s nothing out of the ordinary and the menu looks friendly enough to operate. You also get the speed camera alerts and school zone warnings too.
(continued on next page - disadvantages and safety problems)