BMW, Daimler and Audi’s $3.1 billion Here maps deal has dented Apple and Google’s in-car tech plans

Daimler, BMW and Audi have just bought Nokia’s Here maps for $3.1 billion (£2 billion), and it’s going to seriously affect Apple and Google’s in-car aspirations. The German consortium completed the long-rumoured deal after interest from Uber, Facebook and several other companies.

The consortium – which includes the parent companies of Mercedes-Benz and Mini – will each take an equal share of the company, and reports indicate it will invite global partners Fiat Chrysler, Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Ford Motor, Toyota and General Motors to invest in the rights too.

Nokia’s mapping division was created in 2008 after the $8.1 billion acquisition of Navteq, and since then it’s become one of the main providers of automotive maps. Based in Berlin, Nokia Here supplies maps for nearly 200 countries, and employs a workforce of 6,000.

Bad news for Apple and Google

The German car industry’s decision to buy Nokia’s Here maps will dampen the automotive ambitions of Google and Apple, and shows exactly how critical the mapping service was to manufacturers.

A statement released by the consortium reads: “The acquisition is intended to secure the long-term availability of Here’s products and services as an open, independent and value-creating platform for cloud-based maps and other mobility services, accessible to all customers from the automotive industry and other sectors.”

Nokia Here mapping is already used by the majority of in-car tech systems, and the move now secures its long-term use. Both Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto would like to take over the in-car tech market, and their attraction comes partly from their bundled mapping services. By securing the rights to Nokia Here, the German car industry has dented one of the tech giants’ main routes into cars. Although companies still have the option to make their in-car systems compatible with CarPlay and Android Auto, they won’t be held to ransom by Google or Apple like they may have been before.

“With the joint acquisition of Here, we want to secure the independence of this central service for all vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and customers in other industries,” added Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG.

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Driving towards autonomous technology

The purchase of Here maps also represents an important step in the development of self-driving technology. By using its already precise location data and adding to it via a range of connected services, the consortium believes Here’s data can be increasingly used by autonomous cars.

“Here is laying the foundations for the next generation of mobility and location-based services. For the automotive industry, this is the basis for new assistance systems and ultimately fully autonomous driving,” said a joint statement released by the consortium.  

“Extremely precise digital maps will be used in combination with real-time vehicle data in order to increase road safety and to facilitate innovative new products and services. On the basis of the shared raw data, all automobile manufacturers can offer their customers differentiated and brand-specific services.”

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