German carmakers secure position in critical map market
The three carmakers intend to maintain HERE as an independent company and won’t interfere into operational business, the trio announced in a joint press release. Instead, HERE will continue to offer its map data to offer to any interested party. However, the acquisition poses an “interesting opportunity of how an industry collective will share a strategic resource with competitors”, comments market research company IHS Automotive Analysis. “The most likely answer is an industry consortium supported by an initial fee, as well as an annual fee for both membership and to support ongoing costs in R&D, collection and maintenance of high definition maps in exchange for open access to the maps provided by the consortium”, says IHS. Those not part of the consortium are expected to pay a normal licensing fee as they would today.
The consortium model has many benefits for the industry, including the ability to combine resources to secure and continue developing a long-term strategic resource. By acquiring a global platform in HERE, it also may establish a de facto standard, giving the industry a unique opportunity to rally around specifications or processes that could in fact hasten the onset of a connected and automated future mobility ecosystem. Possibly the most important aspect is that the consortium will also own their own data, thus not having to figure out who controls customer data – the service provider or the OEM.
The acquisition also impacts the mobile space significantly, since HERE is one of only two companies worldwide to supply navigable maps at a global scale as an alternative to Google and Apple; the only competitor is TomTom. Mobile companies — many with consumer-facing mobile clients including Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Samsung—see an independent mapping solution as critical in order to compete with Google in the mobile advertising business.
According to the buying consortium, 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. 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.
Connected cars will constantly complement HERE’s cloud-based data repository with current data on traffic situation and road condition. 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 minimized fuel consumption.
High-precision maps are also critical 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 centimeter, 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.