How Voice-Powered Navigation Is Getting Incredibly Accurate

Voice input is gaining more traction in the navigation software market, but what3words and Cerence, a company best known for its conversational AI, are overhauling the concept with 3-meter accuracy for any location.
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Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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The two companies have created a joint navigation offering whose objective is to allow users to interact with the software hands-free and be provided with accuracy based on the what3words model.

The technology is available on cars powered by VinFast, Mercedes Benz, and Tata Motors, and Subaru plans to install the software on vehicles sold in the United States and Canada.

what3words divides the world into three-meter squares, and each square is given an address comprising three random words. Thanks to what3words integration into navigation solutions or car infotainment systems, drivers can use the 3-word address to get route guidance to a selected location.

This is also the purpose of the collaboration between what3words and Cerence. Thanks to conversational AI, drivers can speak the three words generated by what3words to configure the navigation to the desired location. The system can be further enhanced with extra features, such as additional language support.

Subaru is the first company to expand voice-powered navigation on this front. The Japanese carmaker uses the Cerence AI system and what3words in English for American customers and in Japanese for drivers in the domestic market.

The two companies say more automakers are projected to adopt their joint product this year. Their current work is primarily aimed at voice input language support. Seven languages are currently available, and what3words says more could debut this year.

Voice interaction has become an essential part of the experience with infotainment systems, primarily as it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. As such, companies like Google and Apple are investing aggressively on this front, as Google Assistant and Siri are supposed to provide a more natural conversation experience in the car.

Google Assistant is in charge of the hands-free experience on Android and Android Auto. It’s integrated into Google Maps as well, so using voice commands, drivers can configure the navigation to a specific destination, control the music playback, and make phone calls.

what3words is also available as a dedicated app, but its navigation component depends on the platform where it’s installed. On iPhone, what3words only generates the unique three-word address, whereas in charge of getting you there is Apple Maps. The application doesn’t have its own navigation software, so partnerships like the one with Cerence expand the availability of its platform.

Google is also providing an alternative solution. Plus Codes allow users to locate a specific point on the map without an address, eventually being able to configure Google Maps to provide route guidance to said location.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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