A coalition of German automakers made up of Audi, the BMW AG, and Daimler AG (parent of Mercedes-Benz) agreed this week to buy Nokia’s mapping service for about €2.5 billion. Nokia is selling this part of its business to focus more on the phone side of the company. The sale is not yet final, but the automakers have outbid big Silicon Valley companies that have recently shown interest.
A mapping service might not sound like that big of a deal, but in reality the exchange could change the future of self-driving cars. Nokia Here, the main technology component in the package being sold, is the most complex digital map in the world. All of the major road systems in the world are included, which is very important in existing GPS systems being used to pilot autonomous cars. Over half of Nokia Here’s sales in 2014 were from the auto industry alone. If a company like Google or Apple were to purchase it, developers could lose access or have to pay a much higher price.
It has been said that if the German manufacturers win the system, they plan to share it with other car manufacturers like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor Corporation, General Motors, and more. Hopefully that means that continued development of self-driving cars will go on as scheduled!
For more details about the deal and its implications, check out The Wall Street Journal.