Leave it to Subaru. Already a popular carmaker among birders—check the parking lot at your next big meet-up—the company is now making sure the tie is even stronger: As part of a software update for the 2017 Impreza and BRZ sports car, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird will now be available as an in-car application. Yes, eBird for your car. In addition to the Impreza and BRZ, Subaru says the app will make its way to other models soon.
What does it mean to have eBird in your car? Well, like any other in-car app, it won't be exactly like the one on your phone. (There are many user experience and federal safety measures to consider; you are driving after all.) But it will work in conjunction with the app on your smartphone. Just connect your phone to the car as if you're charging it, and the new eBird app will gain access to your personal eBird list and all the other basic sighting info being reported by your fellow eBirders. Then, tap the app on the large touchscreen in the dash to launch the in-car experience.
Just the idea of not having to fumble with your phone while out chasing birds is nice, but Subaru and Cornell outline two specific scenarios where the app could come in really handy. For example, with your phone plugged into the car, the app will alert you if a bird you've never seen before has been spotted close by. If you're willing to put off those errands or the wedding you're heading to—it is a lifer—the app, which is connected to the car's navigation system, will then guide you to the spot. Another option is to check on the level of birding activity for nearby locations. Lots of good stuff being seen at the park near your house? Maybe you should take a detour on the way home from town. For basic IDing, the app also allows users to view photos and profiles of individual birds.
Putting a birding app in a car makes perfect sense, but this is a particularly clever strategic play by Subaru. The company has a history of embracing its niche demographic buyers, and there is undeniably a special relationship between Subaru and birders. Before this project, the company had already worked with the Cornell Lab in the past to strengthen this bond.
The natural affinity birders have for Subarus is interesting. It's largely borne from the overlap in the lifestyles many birders lead and the lifestyle Subaru sells (outdoorsy, crunchy, practical), but then there's this simple fact: Subarus make great cars for birding.
Think about it. Most Subarus are all-wheel drive, so you can go pretty much anywhere you need to find a bird. Like a good pair of bins, they're utilitarian, comfortable, and durable, which is good for chasing birds all over the place. They also have plenty of room for your equipment, especially in an Outback or Forester, and huge windows, providing excellent visibility. And now they have an app that will guide you directly to the birds. Smart, Subaru. Smart.