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What3Words cards in the car: does it work?

► CAR is testing What3Words map service
► You can use it in the car with Ford and Mercedes
► Is it a useful navigation alternative?

Have you ever tried to visit a place that is huge in area but only has one zip code? Do you find it way too fiddly to use super-accurate coordinates to pinpoint an accurate location? What3Words map service might have the answer. What3Words claims that 70 percent of addresses don’t take you to your doorstep, and 74 percent of 3,000 people surveyed in the UK, US, and Germany admit they struggled to find locations because of incorrect addresses.

So What3Words divided the entire planet into 3 m² squares, each of which has a name made up of three random words. So the front door of 10 Downing Street is “indoor.myself.eher”; the entrance door of our office is “”. What3Words says it is used by companies that can deliver and help emergency services find you, especially in the wild.

There is an app for iOS and Android devices that can help you find these three words, but it does require a little brain reset. It seems strange, but you can’t enter an address to find the corresponding three words in the app – instead you’ll either have to use your current GPS location or search the map for it. In addition, the app does not offer its own direct navigation to this point and relies on third-party maps such as Google, Apple Maps or Waze.

What3Words is more user-friendly in the cases it has partnered with automakers. Ford, for example, lets you use What3Words through its Sync AppLink catalog, while Mercedes goes a step further by letting you enter What3Words addresses into the MBUX-Nav when connected to online services. It can also be used via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but must first be allowed in the What3Words app on Apple devices – and refused to appear in the app menu during our investigation on Android, despite carefully following the instructions.

During the test, we tried it in numerous places, including a fast food drive through via Ford’s AppLink system. After finding the three words in the app, that point is sent to the car’s built-in navigation system and we do us on the way. You can also use voice control to find a map point if you already know the words. It takes a few seconds longer to get the required words but could be beneficial in reducing the number of U-turns on the last mile of this trip. It’s also a lot less clunky than memorizing a 16-digit set of coordinates.

What3Words: This is how it works

To a fine point
What3Words diced the entire globe into 3 m² squares to enhance vague addresses or location markers

what3words app

‘Apply search
The mobile app is a requirement; either to find the words for the location or to connect to your car

Navigate by yourself
The app only retrieves the words. Then you have to use another map service to give you a route

what3words ford

What3Words: does this work?

Somehow. It has very special cases for personal use and we have found that it can be difficult to incorporate into a car. But it’s likely valuable to some businesses and can be life saving if used by emergency services in your emergency.


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