Scout bridges navigation gap between car and phone

At the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Telenav demonstrates how its Scout navigation app works with Ford's AppLink app integration system.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Scout navigation app
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- If you ever read an address off your phone and typed it into your car's navigation system, you experienced one of the biggest disconnects between smartphones and cars. At the LA Auto Show, Telenav demonstrated how its Scout navigation app solves this problem.

Last September, Ford and Telenav announced that Scout was compatible with Ford's Sync AppLink app integration feature. Sync AppLink lets drivers control compatible apps through their car's interface. Scout was the first navigation app to work with AppLink, and joined a growing number of compatible apps.

Telenav's Mark Burfeind demonstrated the new Scout integration for CNET in a Mustang equipped with Ford's previous generation navigation system and the latest version of Sync AppLink. Pairing an Android phone with the Scout app to the car through Bluetooth, Burfeind used the car's voice command to launch Scout, which appeared as one of the choices on the AppLink screen.

AppLink was able to access destinations saved in the phone's Favorites and Recents list, and search for nearby points of interests based on categories. Burfeind requested Favorites through voice command, and the Mustang's infotainment system began displaying and reading out each destination, one at a time. Choosing one, the car loaded it into its navigation system and computed the route.

As another example of the system's capabilities, Burfeind chose the category Coffee, causing Scout to do an online search for nearby coffee shops. Again, the car read each result out one at a time, then showed the first three results on a screen. He was able to choose one and have the car compute the route. It seems tedious to have the car read out the results so slowly, but Telenav engineered the AppLink interface in this manner to avoid distracting drivers.

Beyond the phone and car integration, Telenav maintains the Scout.me Web site, which lets users search for destinations that will then show up in the Scout apps on their phones.

Although Scout worked fine in the navigation-equipped Mustang, it really shines when running with one of Ford's cars lacking navigation, but equipped with AppLink. In that environment, a user could control the Scout app through the car's voice command, searching for destinations or choosing one from the Favorites or Recents lists. Scout would use the car's own GPS chip and antenna to determine its location, then compute the route on the phone. Route guidance would appear as turn-by-turn directions on a screen in the car.

Scout navigation app
Scout AppLink integration lets drivers request destinations by Recents, Favorites, and category searches. Wayne Cunningham/CNET