TORONTO Life is short -- so why not take the scenic route? That is the message BMW Financial Services seems to be encouraging with its new app, The Ultimate Drive.
Released last week, the free app allows users to discover, share and rate the world's most interesting driving routes contributed by users worldwide. By incorporating GPS, the app is also able to find routes surrounding a particular location, and will alert users when new routes are discovered in their neighborhood.
"There are plenty of sites that will show you the top roads to drive", said Pawan Murthy, of BMW Group Financial Services, which provides financing for BMW and MINI vehicles.
"The roads that are filtering up (in the app) include others that very few people have ever heard of, and that's what makes it so exciting."
So far more than 600 routes had been added to the app.
Murthy said the most interesting routes are those with the best scenery and, for drivers with sporty cars, include many twists and turns. Points of interest and restaurants or cafes with good food, also get a lot of mentions.
One user, who added a route just west of Denver that runs along North America's highest elevated public road warned drivers to "watch for bighorn sheep".
Another route takes drivers along a trip that concludes at Arkansas' oldest continually operating general store.
"It starts getting very granular from a user-experience standpoint as to what people will share on the app," said Murthy.
He said this release is the first iteration of an app moving further toward "gamification," -- introducing game play elements to increase customer participation. A future version set for release in early October will be more interactive and include a point system aimed at giving customers greater incentive to participate.
"We wanted to get Version 1 out so we could expose it to the world and initiate crowd sourcing of routes. Succeeding versions will have a closer connection with financial services", said Murthy.
Most car companies provide free apps for a wide variety of purposes. One from Nissan, for example, allows owners to remotely manage and maintain their vehicles. Another from Mazda puts drivers in direct contact with roadside assistance.
One drawback to The Ultimate Drive is that directions are not provided natively within the app. But routes can be exported to Facebook or through email, and can also be ported to another GPS-based maps application for directions.
The Ultimate Drive is currently only available in North America.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney)