German car manufacturers have completed a buyout of the division of Nokia that supplies data for the majority of in-car satellite navigation systems, it has been revealed today.
A consortium of BMW, Audi and Daimler paid 2.8 billion euros (around £1.9bn) for HERE, which has a stand-alone app for smartphones, but makes the majority of its revenue from providing up-to-date data that can drive manufacturers’ own systems. Nokia has previously claimed that around 80% of new-car infotainment systems feature HERE data in their navigation software. The firm has maps for almost 200 countries and live traffic information for 33 countries.
The move is a bold one from BMW, Daimler and Audi (the last of those brands means, in effect, that the VW Group as a whole is committed to the deal). It means that they remain committed to their own proprietary navigation systems, despite the increasing influence in this field of non-automative brands like Apple and Google.
The deal is also part of a growing push for autonomous driving systems from all three manufacturers, as HERE software aims to provide cars with the ability to detect hazards before encountering them, through being able to communicate with other cars. The industry-wide approach towards autonomous technology has already encouraged HERE to anticipate the requirements of both autonomous systems and their users, including the understanding that trust must be built between the two for autonomous systems to be fully accepted.
By gaining information about a car's surroundings, HERE aims to create high-definition and real-time detailed maps capable of informing the car to the extent that the maps and information will provide the information necessary for autonomous systems to progress and guide the car around, taking into consideration the traffic conditions and any hazards that may have appeared.
Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, revealed that the three manufacturers will give HERE "free rein in accelerating its growth strategy", and highlighted the industry interest that surrounds autonomous driving.
Information on user behaviour is likely to have increasing value in years to come, and car manufacturers evidently see this as a potential way of earning more from their customers.
The price paid for the division is considerably less than Nokia paid for NAVTEQ before rebranding it as HERE in 2008, but the car manufacturers did have competition for the deal, including a rumoured approach from taxi firm Uber.