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Subaru Announces Major Integration of Location Technology From what3words for Address-Free Navigation

Subaru Announces Major Integration of Location Technology From what3words for Address-Free Navigation

Author: Eric Walz   

Imagine being able to navigate to any place in the world using only three simple words like "cat, dog, house" instead of having to input hard to remember street names or numerical addresses into a vehicle's navigation system. Soon, Subaru Outback drivers will be able to do this.

At the New York Auto Show on Wednesday, automaker Subaru announced a major partnership mapping company "what3words" to include the company's navigation technology in the new Subaru Outback, with integration with other models to follow.

what3words is a London-based geospatial, location, mapping and navigation technology developer. The company extensively mapped the entire globe and divided it up into 57 trillion, three meter squares. Each individual square area can be located using just three simple words  (e.g. "table.lamp.spoon") that each 3 meter square has been uniquely assigned.  

The grid coordinate system covers the entire globe, never needs updating, and works without internet coverage, according to what3words. With the what3words global address system, a driver can find an exact location with three common words, by typing it or using their voice. 

Traditional addresses are often long and complex to type. In addition, many published addresses are imprecise, covering too much of a general area. But what3words addresses can be remembered more easily. These 3-word addresses can even be emailed or sent via SMS so others can find the precise location anywhere in the world.

Addresses or specific locations can also be entered and saved in navigation software more easily. The location technology works with popular navigation services such as Google Maps, Bing, and Waze and others. 

Through the new partnership with Subaru, Outback drivers will be able to navigate to any precise 10ft x 10ft location in the world using just three simple words. It also adds an additional layer of safety by making its easier to quickly enter an address in the vehicle navigation system, which can be a frustrating experience while driving.

"We're confident that our technology will enhance the driving experience of Subaru drivers across the US and we're excited to see how this partnership progresses," said Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words.

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what3words says that around 75% of the world's countries lack a reliable address system. The problem is compounded in the era of mobility-on-demand and e-commerce delivery services, which often require a precise location to meet a rider or drop off a parcel. 

For example, finding a specific entrance in a sprawling shopping center or sports stadium is difficult when there is only one published address, as these locations usually have multiple entrances and buildings. What3words solves this issue with its precise location technology.

In addition, many people have experienced having a package delivered to the wrong address or an Uber driver dropping them off a few doors down from an entrance to a building since street addresses are not always precise enough, or they don't exist in outdoor spaces such as parks or rural areas. 

While roughly 80% of drivers use satellite navigation in their cars such as Google Maps, 87% of them don't trust it to direct them to the right destination every time. Some drivers have even complained that the popular Google Maps app guided them down dirt roads or poorly maintained rural roads.  

During a recent Sierra Nevada Mountains snowstorm in Dec 2021, hundreds of California drivers got rerouted then stranded on dangerous and snowy mountain roads by following directions from Google Maps that were supposed to guide them around the hazardous conditions.  

what3words can help eliminate these issues, and even provides easy location references in places with no street addresses, such as beaches, national parks and remote hiking trails.

Subaru caters to outdoor enthusiasts and many owners want to get away from the city.  However, these outdoor recreation spots rarely have street addresses.

Suppose a group of drivers want to meet at a specific location in a National Park, using what3words mapping technology, the precise spot can be shared with the entire group using the three simple words assigned to it by what3words.

If a driver wants to navigate to an exact three meter square for an Instagram worthy photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of the world's most photographed man-made objects, they can enter the what3words address of "///usual.trying.highs" and navigate to the precise location that offers the best view, or share that exact location with others.

"At Subaru we're known for being more than a car company. We want our drivers to be out exploring the world, and with this what3words integration, adventure has never been easier," said Thomas J. Doll, President and CEO, Subaru of America, Inc.

The what3words grid system is being built into in-vehicle navigation systems from automakers around the world, including Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Lamborghini, Lotus and Ford Motor Co.

Outside of uses for navigation, the what3words technology is being used by emergency call centers in the UK, US, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, and other major countries to help locate those in distress. 

The free what3words app is available for iOS and Android devices that enables people to find, share and navigate to what3words addresses in 50 languages.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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