About 8 million new vehicles sold last year had either all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, giving them the ability to do some off-road driving, according to IHS Markit data. Tire manufacturer BF Goodrich sees that huge volume of annual sales as a massive opportunity for people to get to more remote areas and has developed an app that makes off-roading easier.
Goodrich’s OnTrail app allows drivers to check for trail difficulty, the average length of time to navigate, user reviews and weather conditions to plan an off-road adventure.
The tire company charges $34.99 for an annual membership. It is available for Apple and Android operating systems.
“With OnTrail, we’re bringing off-road adventures to the next level, making it easy for adventure seekers to find and share the best trails based on their specific criteria,” said Harold Phillips, global general manager for BFGoodrich Tires.
A recent Trucks.com test of the OnTrail on dirt roads and trails in Southern California’s Santa Ana Mountains found that the app helps give newcomers and experienced off-roaders to confidence to find exciting routes.
One feature helps novices improve their off-road abilities by learning from veteran drivers with helpful how-to and quick-tip videos.
It allows users to find both the closest trails to their home and plan far-flung adventures such as a trek through Moab in Utah. Drivers can capture content and track critical data on routes and share socially or with specific users.
The advantage of OnTrail is that it brings the information off-roaders need into one platform and reduces the need for multiple apps and tools to navigate a trail. The crowd-sourcing feature also helps build community insight about the particular challenges and obstacles for different locations and trials.
Goodrich sees the app as helping off-road clubs connect their members, create rallies and manage other activities.
“With the app, we can turn cleaning up a trail into a game. We can award points and create a reward system for collecting trash,” said Oscar Pereda, Director OE2 and Conversion at BFGoodrich/Michelin.
Automakers are responding to growing interest in off-roading, coming out with models such as the Ford Explorer Timberline and Subaru Outback Wilderness that have more off-road capability.
“Automakers have increased availability of trucks and utility vehicles with special editions that offer expanded capability compared with standard all-wheel or four-wheel drive systems for more off-road terrain in recent years. While there does seem to be an increased interest in active lifestyles, it also reflects that automakers have continued to explore how to offer specialized versions of popular vehicles in general,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit.
“Consumers are looking for vehicles that fit snugly with their lifestyles and personalities, and automakers have responded,” Brinley said.