You might not have heard of What3words, but the British technology company has a growing presence in the automotive world and its unique global mapping system will be plugging into more vehicle navigation systems in the future.
Mercedes-Benz was the first to form a partnership for its new MBUX in-car information system and now Land Rover has teamed up, integrating What3words into an off-road adventure application, and the early adopters will surely be joined by more automotive partners.
Like many great inventions, What3words is a simple idea made possible by an incredibly complex information network, requiring the entire planet to be divided into 57 trillion 3x3-metre squares.
Rather than a number or address, each square has already been allocated a unique identity of just three random words, such as:
In the Mercedes A-Class, instead of entering a street address all you need are the three words that relate to a particular location. You don’t have to pick the words – What3words has already done that for you.
The idea has a number of key advantages. Firstly, you don’t need a street address to pinpoint a location anywhere in the world. With a global grid of squares, you can indicate any location in the world in exactly the same way as longitude and latitude coordinates, but instead of a series of 12 digits, the location is described in three random words.
That has clear advantages when you are somewhere remote and there may not even be a landmark to guide directions, let alone a street address - precisely why Land Rover has incorporated the service into its ARDHI off-road application.
The application allows adventurous off-road enthusiasts to plan routes across the Middle East and Africa – areas without reliable mapping – as well as pinpointing key locations and can even send up a ‘flare’ for other users nearby, if you need assistance.
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Coordinates, while accurate, are prone to errors and just one wrong digit can lead to an entirely different point on the planet. Twelve numbers are also hard to remember especially if the navigator has no way of recording them. Three words, however are far easier to recall, pass on and are less prone to mistakes.
In its latest application of What3words, Land Rover demonstrated the simplicity and effectiveness of the service on the remote Scottish island of Mull, where the local doctor had asked for help navigating the outpost.
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Using the system, the locations of far-flung farms and businesses could be rapidly entered, allowing medical attention to be deployed to patients faster and more accurately.
But isolated locations are not the only use for the service and Mercedes has adopted the technology for vehicle navigation around more familiar urban landscapes as well.
The theory goes that remembering three short words is a lot simpler than a street number, street name, suburb and city.
Not convinced? Let’s try it. Which of these addresses would you rather have to remember, recall and enter into your navigation? All three will lead you to the same place on earth.
- 1829 North East Industrial Pkwy, Greenup, KY 41144, USA
- 38®31’58N 82®48’17W
With more car makers taking notice it probably won’t be long before you plan your next trip using What3words.