Three German automakers signaled their commitment to automated cars with an agreement to buy mapping technology from Nokia for just over $3 billion.
The three companies – BMW, Audi and Daimler – will each take one-third ownership of Nokia HERE, which will remain operationally independent.
HERE is a map-data leader for car navigation systems. Competitors include Google and TomTom.
The business is barely profitable and small relative to Nokia’s networking and licensing businesses. Driving specially equipped cars around the world to collect map data is an expensive pursuit.
But the technology is becoming vitally important for automakers who need precise digital maps to allow computers to take control of cars.
Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG’s chairman, said in a prepared statement: “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.”
By sharing raw data collected by increasingly powerful sensors on cars, the automakers plan to improve maps in ways not possible before, for instance by providing real-time guidance about icy roads, combining data from maps, brake systems and thermometers.
Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Samsung are also customers of Berlin-based HERE.