German car giants jointly buy Nokia mapping service

Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Damiler AG have acquired Nokia's mapping and location services business 'HERE'.

The acquisition aims 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.

The three partners will each hold an equal stake in HERE with none seeking to acquire a majority interest. Subject to the approval of the relevant antitrust authorities, the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016. HERE currently provides mapping and location intelligence for nearly 200 countries in more than 50 languages and is one of the main providers of mapping and location services. 

With autonomous cars becoming more of a reality, the HERE system 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. Extremely precise digital maps are increasingly important and 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.

"Our environment is constantly changing. That's why the information in digital maps has to be continually updated so that maximum utility can be offered," stated Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG. The high-precision cameras and sensors installed in modern cars are the digital eyes for updating mobility data and maps; in this way, information such as speed limits or critical driving situations are already recognised today. All data gained will be processed in compliance with strict data-protection rules.

"HERE will play a key role in the digital revolution of mobility, combining high definition maps and data from vehicles to make travel safer and easier for everyone," explained Harald Kruger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

This knowledge will be to the benefit of all carmakers and their customers. "High-precision digital maps are a crucial component of the mobility of the future. 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," stated Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG.

The social benefits of 'swarm intelligence' are enormous: They facilitate warnings of hazards in real time, of icy roads for example, based on calculations of individual data such as ABS activations and outside temperature. Upcoming traffic jams will be identified more precisely in the future, significantly reducing the risk of accidents. In this way, the vision of accident-free driving is gradually becoming reality. In a further stage, the data could be used to learn about critical bends on the road, in order to warn drivers in good time or to activate assistance systems. Anticipation of green phases of stoplights could navigate vehicles through an urban area on a "green wave" with the appropriate engine performance and minimised fuel consumption.

High-precision maps are important for autonomous driving and many other forms of assistance systems, as these technologies require an up-to-date plan of a vehicle's surroundings exact to the nearest centimetre, in order to react in real time. While HERE already produces extremely precise static maps, they can be verified more exactly and continually updated with a constant flow of data from vehicles' surroundings.

The company will continue to develop its position as a strong and independent provider of maps and location-based services, will expand its product offering and continue to make it available to all customers across industries. The management of HERE will continue to be independent - with the goal of moving the business case forward as a platform, open to all customers.