Diversification is a cardinal rule of investing, but it's rare to see retail companies throw their financial weight around so far from what a reasonable observer would consider their comfort zone. For Amazon, a German company that specializes in high-definition digital mapping would certainly seem to fall far outside the realm of eCommerce.
Still, The New York Times reported that Amazon is negotiating an investment in HERE, the cloud-based, live-mapping solution formerly owned by Nokia and now jointly held by BMW, Audi and Mercedes. According to two anonymous sources close to the talks, the German automakers have been looking for other parties involved in the automotive business to join them in the venture as partners, but Amazon might be a perfect fit, despite its retail background — if only because Amazon Web Services might have the cloud-based oomph HERE's technology needs to take the next evolutionary step for the future of self-driving cars.
"The new owners Audi, Daimler and BMW have said from the start that they are open for new partners to join. We have noticed that there is lots of interest, not only from potential partners from within the automotive industry but also from other sectors," a BMW spokesperson told NYT.
While it's tempting to think of an investment in HERE as a preliminary step on the way to the first Amazon Car, NYT speculated that the eCommerce giant might instead be interested in HERE's real-time, high-definition mapping technology to improve the efficiency of its growing catalog of on-demand delivery services. If it can send drivers more accurate routing information for faster deliveries, then it might just have the upper hand, when Uber, Lyft and the dozens of other burgeoning delivery companies finally have to fight it out to decide who has the technological chops necessary to survive in a landscape where consumers aren't willing to wait.