Unless you drive a new Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Land Rover or Lamborghini, you may not be aware that those automakers have embraced a new, easier and more precise way to navigate by voice. All five companies have incorporated or are incorporating what3words technology.
To explain, what3words is a company that simply “divided the world into 3 metre squares and gave each square a unique combination of three words,” they write. “It’s the easiest way to find and share exact locations.”
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“Street addresses weren’t designed for 2022. They aren’t accurate enough to specify precise locations, such as building entrances, and don’t exist for parks and many rural areas. This makes it hard to find places and prevents people from describing exactly where help is needed in an emergency.”
You say the three words representing your destination aloud, and the car punches that precise spot into the nav. You can also download what3words as an app. It’s not limited to just English, either; it’s available in 50 languages and they’re working on more.
I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m a native New Yorker, and could ask my native friends to meet me in Manhattan on the northwest corner of 37th and 5th. But newcomers to the city would be flummoxed by such directions, which also happen to be a mouthful. To be able to boil it down to three short words and have the phone figure out the rest would be tremendously helpful.
In a rural situation, too. My wife and I now live on a 47-acre farm in the South. She’s also a native New Yorker and down here, we are the ones at a disadvantage; we struggle to describe specific locations on the property, whereas the locals fluently use ground features, tree species and natural conformations as descriptive landmarks. It would be much easier if I could tell my wife that I’m off to clear the fallen tree at Pancake Monkey Zilch.
As for how to discover the three words for a given location, you must first look it up on the map in their app the conventional way, then click on the desired square to learn the words. Then you can save the location, or remember or write the words down.
Years and years ago, I was in Manhattan and waiting for the light at the northeast corner of Lafayette and Houston. A woman had come out of the nearby subway and was clearly lost. She pulled out her cell phone and called someone. “I don’t know where I am,” she said. “Can you find me? …But I don’t know where I am!”
Across the street was a gigantic billboard for the then-popular video game, Grand Theft Auto.
“I’m in front of Grand Theft Auto,” the girl said into the phone.
If I was a genius, I’d have been inspired by the moment, and started what3words first. Instead, I am a blogger writing about them.