New technology for Lamborghini: What3words joins Alexa
In most modern cars and SUVs, in-dash navigation systems help motorists plan a car trip, give them directions to meetings with clients, or take them to their kids’ soccer games. But where does a Lamborghini Huracán driver go?
Wherever that is, a new navigation system from the 2022 models will help get the car there – and hopefully with more certainty. A console-mounted app called What3words is coming to these Lamborghinis, and it will be the first of its kind to feature Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa feature.
Previously available in other cars, but without Alexa, the What3words system divides the world into 57 trillion 10-foot (3 by 3 meter) squares and assigns each a unique three-word address code randomly chosen from a custom standard dictionary.
“The Huracán app is important,” said Chris Sheldrick, managing director of London-based What3words. “So many drivers struggle to enter the address and end up in the wrong place.”
Intended to improve both the speed and accuracy of car navigation systems, What3words is meant to overcome common issues such as duplicate street names. To name a few: there are 367 Park Streets in California; Australia has 521 George Streets; and in Greater London there are 14 Church Roads.
“Traditional addresses often aren’t suitable for voice input,” Sheldrick added, “and most of the time the best places don’t have any addresses at all.”
For example, a Huracán driver wanting to see the San Francisco Bay from the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge would first call up an image of the bridge on the What3words screen, then identify the coded 10-foot square corresponding to that location. After speaking the code aloud – in this case, “scar-milk-focus” – the driver would follow Alexa’s guidance to that exact location.
A critical year for electric vehicles
The popularity of battery-powered cars is skyrocketing around the world, even as the global car market stagnates.
The navigation system is part of Lamborghini’s effort to meet customer expectations beyond power. This year would be the company’s last to offer only internal combustion engines – in 2023 it is expected to launch hybrid models, with all-electric models coming later in the decade. (All of that tech and prowess could pay off for Lamborghini, which in 2021 had its best year ever, delivering 8,405 cars.)
“We start with the car and its driver,” said Luca Giardino, head of connectivity at Lamborghini. “The Huracán connects software and hardware in a way that strengthens that relationship. What3words allows you to focus more on the pure driving experience – without the distraction of being uncertain whether or not you will arrive at the correct destination.
Mr. Sheldrick, a former music promoter and organizer, developed What3words in response to the frequent skill difficulties encountered by his touring musicians. For example, he recalled an incident in Italy when a driver unloaded a truckload of instruments an hour north, rather than an hour south, of Rome. On another occasion, a frenzied keyboard player called him from somewhere in London and said, “Don’t freak out, Chris, but we may have just checked the sound of the wrong wedding.”
Mr Sheldrick approached a classmate who is a mathematician in hopes of developing a system that would be as accurate as latitude and longitude GPS coordinates, but easier and faster to use. Shortly after their conversation, the friend created the app’s first three-word address algorithm on the back of an envelope.
“Lamborghini is a pioneer in being the first to implement this system,” said John Scumniotales, product manager of Alexa Automotive. “They certainly won’t be the last. We are excited to see how this partnership is progressing.
Huracán drivers don’t pay to use the system – What3words charges a flat fee to Lamborghini and other companies that purchase the app.
“People around the world are using What3words addresses to find, share and describe places faster and easier,” said Sheldrick, “from festival goers to delivery drivers, event organizers and postal services.”
Voiceless versions of What3words technology have been adopted in selected models by other car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Lotus, Tata Motors and Ford. The app is free to download on Apple iPhones and iPads and Android platforms, which can then integrate with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
“It could be really handy when trying to figure out which parking lot to use when I go to my son’s football games,” said Chris Gerdes, a Stanford professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the university’s Center for Automotive. To research.
While advanced navigation tools like What3words show promise, Gerdes said he remains skeptical that they can propel automakers into the fast lane of fully self-driving cars. Creating and orchestrating the complex mosaic of automated cameras and sensors, machine learning tools and algorithms needed to achieve reliable self-driving cars are far greater technical challenges, he said.
“A successful autonomous system requires the autonomous vehicle to be constantly aware of other objects and means of transportation” – and how they move, Gerdes said.
Although widespread self-driving capability is still in the future, complex computer applications and electronics are increasingly used in high-end “driver’s cars”.
The $200,000 V-10 Huracán, for example, with 602 horsepower and a 0-60 acceleration time of 2.5 seconds, is pretty bristling with computer-aided performance. Its “predictive system” adapts to driver inputs in a way that can even correct shift errors.
Indeed, in a conversation with company executives, chief executive Stephan Winkelmann indicated that Lamborghini is open to autonomous operation as a future option in “heavy urban traffic situations where driving is not not fun”.
And Mr Gerdes said Lamborghini representatives recently visited Stanford to see a demonstration of the centre’s self-driving race cars.
The growing adoption of technology is remarkable. Former Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne once described the idea of an electric vehicle with the Prancing Horse badge as an “almost obscene concept”. But in 2013 came the 963-hp Ferrari, the company’s first car to use a hybrid drive system with a V-12 internal combustion engine and two electric motors.
Last year, Ferrari added a third electric motor to its SF90 Stradale for a boost of 983 horsepower. The Purosangue, the automaker’s highly anticipated first-ever SUV, is expected to offer a plug-in hybrid when it launches this year.
“If you look at where modern cars are going, I really think autonomous operation will be part of the future automotive experience for enthusiasts,” Gerdes said. “It will be entirely possible to build cars that enthusiasts love to drive when they want to and then can switch to autonomous operation when they don’t want to.”
The Patrick Ottis company in Berkeley, California is widely ranked among the world’s premier restorers of vintage Ferrari automobiles and engines. Mr Ottis said that in May he will ‘mark half a century of repairing Ferrari internal combustion engines’.
His shop keeps pace with Ferrari updates. “We have just hired a talented Ferrari mechanic with 40 years of experience,” Mr Ottis said. “He knows all the new models perfectly, including La Ferrari.
“Since he’s been here I’ve driven some of the newer Ferraris, and when I get in a three or four year old Ferrari it’s so awesome I can’t even appreciate it. C That’s when I realize how amazing the future is. And it’s going to continue.”