Company / division: HERE
I’ve seen this announcement referred to as being about crowdsourcing in at least one place, and that’s exactly the wrong word to use, because this isn’t about a crowd of people at all, but about real-time data from vehicles. In contrast to crowd-sourced map data, which can easily be manipulated for humorous or nefarious ends, this is a closed-loop system in which anonymized data from BMW cars will help update HERE’s increasingly detailed and real-time maps. And that kind of up-to-the-minute map data will be critical for autonomous driving in future – it’s no good knowing what the road looked like six months ago (or even yesterday) if there’s construction, an accident, or a roadblock today. Putting this technology into one manufacturer’s new cars by itself isn’t going to generate that much data – there simply aren’t enough brand-new BMWs to be useful. But if HERE strikes similar partnerships with other carmakers, then over time it could end up with some of the best real-time map data out there. It’s a little hard to tell from HERE’s release, but the BMW/Mobileye release certainly suggests that the latter will also get to aggregate and use the data. This announcement also highlights the fact that, no matter how clever the technology from Silicon Valley startups, the companies with by far the most and best data will be the car companies and those that partner with them.
Intel is buying into maps because it can’t afford to miss out on self-driving cars – Recode (Jan 3, 2017)
HERE has walked an interesting path since its acquisition by a consortium of carmakers. It’s already had an investment from several big Chinese tech names, and now here comes Intel. Intel is likely responding here to Nvidia’s early lead in car chips, though I’m not sure how much this play makes sense there: mapping is, of course, generally integrated into devices well above the chip level. But kudos to the carmakers for getting a range of other investors to buy in and recoup some of their investment.
Chinese investors buy stake in mapping firm HERE | Reuters (Dec 27, 2016)
HERE is Nokia’s former mapping division, which was sold to a consortium of carmakers in 2015. China is one of the most important markets for carmakers and an important new market for HERE’s map data too, so this seems a great strategic fit. And it also allows the Chinese backers access to global mapping and navigation data, which will be useful in their expansion outside China.