The three auto makers had an edge over competing bidders for the $2.7 billion acquisition of HERE from Nokia earlier this month. They were already customers, using HERE's digital mapping for their in-dash navigation systems.
While self-driving cars may not widely available soon, many consider them to be the next generation -- the Next Big Thing in personal transportation. And highly-automated cars will depend on the type of precise, up-to-date maps HERE has specialized in producing.
Dr. Thomas Weber, board of management for Council Lead Partner Daimler and responsible for Group Research and Mercedez-Benz Cars Development, explained the logic behind the HERE acquisition. "Customers from the automotive industry are particularly interested in highly-automated driving. But HERE is much more than a market leader in digital maps. With its high level of innovation and exceptional employees, the company has the potential to become the leading provider of technology for real-time location services in the digitized world of mobility."
HERE has a well-established track record. Four out of five new vehicles equipped with in-car navigation sold in the U.S. in Europe use digital maps from the company.
To create those maps, HERE has been taking advantage of more than 80,000 sources and billions of probe points every day, from mobile phones, connected cars, the transportation and logistics industries and more. HERE has been working to connect with the on-board sensors in millions of vehicles to provide data about the vehicle's location and surroundings.
With two million connected cars between them, Daimler, BMW and Audi may choose to speed up development of an enhanced mapping platform with massive amounts of additional data from their customers -- and they are now assessing the benefits of providing in-car sensor data from their fleets to HERE
In the future…
What do the car companies see for the future? Quite a lot. As Daimler says, "…maps will give vehicles the ability to effectively 'see around corners,' enabling them to anticipate road hazards and prepare and adjust driving strategies accordingly in a way that increases driver trust."
HERE is structured as an independent and open company, and its new owners are inviting automotive, consumer and enterprise customers to sign on and help with the effort.
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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.