May 5, 2022 - Technology

Carmakers adopt what3words app for voice navigation

Image of a 10-foot square block of pavement in NYC, identified by a three-word address.

Three words identify the precise location where a taxi might meet you. Image courtesy of what3words

As voice technology in cars has improved, it has opened the door for apps like what3words, a voice-navigation tool that helps drivers get precisely where they're going.

What's happening: Nearly a dozen manufacturers have integrated the London-based company's technology into their vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Subaru.

By dividing the world into a grid of 10-foot by 10-foot squares, each designated by a unique combination of three random words, the technology helps drivers navigate to places where an address isn't enough.

Why it matters: The app could enable rideshare drivers to find their customers more easily, for example, or delivery drivers to find the right door to an apartment building.

  • Drones could also use what3words to make sure packages are delivered to the exact location in a backyard.

Between the lines: Some places, like stadiums or industrial parks, have a single address but multiple entrances and parking garages.

  • Some pop-up venues may have no address at all.
  • Some places have no street address, such as beaches, national parks or hiking trails.

How it works: To pinpoint your location, you can share your three random words — your what3words address — with other app users.

  • "We're not trying to replace street addresses," the company's chief marketing officer, Giles Rhys Jones, tells Axios. "It's more like a super zip code."

Yes, but: For what3words to become the universal navigation tool the company aspires it to be, it needs to be integrated into rideshare and delivery apps like Uber and DoorDash.

  • Some services in the U.K. like DHL, DPD and Hermes are using what3words, but so far none of the big delivery companies in the U.S. have signed on.
  • Some emergency dispatch centers in the U.S. are using the technology, however.
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