Telenav’s Scout navigation app has been receiving significant buzz since its debut at CES in January and we got a chance to spend some hands-on time with it just in time for the New York Auto Show. The app, like most others in its class, is stored on a user’s smartphone and syncs up with her vehicle’s telematics system through a Bluetooth connection.
But what sets Scout for Cars apart is that it relies almost entirely on your smartphone. This not only helps insure that you always have access to a GPS signal, your phones, but also enables you to bring saved locations and directions with you where ever you go, whether on the road or walking around an unfamiliar city.
Telenav has also launched a companion web site for Scout, Scout.me, that allows you to save locations to the cloud and sync them to your Scout app on your mobile device, where they can be accessed from the road.
Scout’s home screen has one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate we’ve seen in a vehicle. The screen is made up of three panels running from top to bottom. The top panel is home to a search bar, from which you can search for directions to a new destination, and current location tab. The lower panel provides users with access to their favorite locations, recent searches and, conveniently, nearby airports.
The large center panel provides you with two large timers that provide continuously updated estimates for how long it will take you to get to your home or work based on current traffic conditions. Scout says it chose to display the home and work timers in an effort to bring a sense of daily usefulness to its navigation app.
We spent some time with this particular feature at CES and found it relatively easy to use. Simply set your home and work destination ones and each time you want to calculate the time to either, just tap the go button. In addition to giving you the time it will take to get to your destination, the Scout app will also provide a map with route information complete will traffic conditions.
Scout won’t just limit you to displaying your home or work timer. Company representatives say that Telenav is working to make the destinations customizable, so if you’re a student, for instance, you could change work to school and get the same kind of functionality.
Scout’s navigation system provides users with a slew of options for getting you to your destination in the shortest amount of time. After searching for a destination, the system will provide you with up to three route options including their distance and estimated travel time based on current traffic conditions. Select the route you want to take and Scout will pull down the directions from the cloud to your phone and push it to your vehicle’s display.
One of the more appealing aspects of Scout is the number of ways you can customize your map. Users can, for example, choose to display the location of red light cameras, speed limits, turn-by-turn directions, traffic volume, accidents and a host of other options. As expected, Scout’s map is also fully interactive, so you can rotate it, scroll and zoom in or out. One item we liked in particular was the map’s ability to display street names in large text above their locations, making it easy to find a particular street at a glance.
The navigation function also allows users to search for particular points of interest along their selected routes. So if you’re on your way to a restaurant, you can search for nearby ATMs and Scout will display the ones closest to your route.
With Scout’s favorites feature, users can save locations to the app and quickly pull them up on your vehicle’s display. Like Scout’s standard navigation function, the favorites feature provides you with three different routes, as well as the distance and the time it takes to drive them. Because routes and locations are pulled down from the cloud, Scout can also provide users with the phone numbers of certain businesses.
Scout.me allows users to search for directions to locations and save them to their Scout account. That information is then shared with their Scout app, which can then be access through the vehicle’s display. Since Scout is not yet available, we didn’t get a chance to see how quickly the web site and app were able to communicate with each other. We did, however, find Scout.me easy to navigate (no pun intended).
After spending time with the Scout app at both CES and last week, we can certainly say that it provides a boatload of functionality, particularly when used in tandem with Scout.me. The fact that you can Scout outside of your vehicle, just sweetens the deal. Still we would like to see how it compares to a traditional in-vehicle navigation system.