Car Navigation Systems Go off the Beaten Path

Automakers Use Tech for Hard-to-Describe Locations

How would you ask a vehicle’s navigation software for directions to a spot that doesn’t have a street address — such as a site that’s off the road, a certain parking space outside a stadium or a particular entrance to a hotel?

A growing number of automakers are adopting a solution that allows drivers to type in, for example, “///costumes.plotted.notepad.” That is a specific 10-foot square piece of ground in the Grand Canyon.

In this solution that was developed by what3words, every 10-foot square on the globe has been assigned a unique combination of three words that were randomly chosen. Typing that combination — which is dubbed a “what3words address” — into an app or infotainment system enables the navigation system to guide the driver there.

Providing a Seamless Experience

Once the software has been installed in a vehicle — either at the factory while being built or in an over-the-air software update after being delivered to the customer — it can then be used even when there’s no connectivity.

The latest automaker to add the what3words system to the software in its vehicles is Jaguar Land Rover.

“This world-changing technology is all about simplification, providing our customers with a seamless modern luxury experience that means they can find their way anywhere in the world without having to worry about connectivity,” Mark Carter, navigation product owner and digital product platform at Jaguar Land Rover, said in a press release.

Making Exploration Easy

When another automaker, Subaru, announced in April that it would be adding what3words to the infotainment system in some of its new cars, it cited several cases in which users might use the location technology to find or share a spot that either doesn’t have an address or has an address that covers a large area, like campsites, parking lots, stadiums, industrial parks, beaches, parks and hiking trails.

Subaru said the technology is also used by travel guide companies to direct customers to a particular entrance to a building; logistics companies to deliver packages exactly where they’re needed; and emergency call centers to minimize the time it takes first responders to find a location.

Delivering Software Updates

When Jaguar Land Rover announced its addition of the what3words system to its infotainment system, the company reported that it was the first automaker to deliver it to vehicles that were already on the road via an over-the-air software update. That’s a capability employed to give a growing number of connected vehicles the latest software, without their having to visit a dealer.

Read more: Over-the-Air Updates Add Functions to Millions of Vehicles

The company reported that in previous over-the-air updates, it delivered access to Amazon Alexa to more than 200,000 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, 1.3 million vehicle-level updates and 3 million engine control unit updates.