Uber has made a bid for Nokia’s Here, Google Maps’ main competitor, for as much as $3 billion, reports The New York Times. Nokia had announced last month that it was interested in selling and now plans on signing a deal by the end of May.
At the beginning of the year, the fast-growing alternative cab service had raised more than $4 billion since being founded in 2010, with $1.6 billion in debt financing from Goldman Sachs in order to expand in Asia. Now Uber has the ambition to develop autonomous cars and could therefore be a step ahead of its German car competitors – also interested in bidding – with the Here technology. Two months ago, Uber took over a mapping company, deCarta, based in California.
Currently, Uber relies on Google Maps for tracking its vehicles. But as Google is busy developing its own autonomous vehicles, Uber is eager to find an alternative. The same is true for Mercedes, Audi and BMW, which are presenting a bid as a consortium. Other U.S. tech giants who have shown interest include Facebook and Microsoft.
Digital mapping services are key to car manufacturers, as Internet-connected vehicles will be increasingly used. “By 2020, about 150 million vehicles will be connected via Wi-Fi, and 60 percent to 75 percent of them will be capable of consuming, creating and sharing Web-based data,” said Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm.
Gartner predicts that 58 percent of U.S. and 53 percent of German vehicle owners will insist that tech firms, not car companies, control the Internet and other electronic systems. “Today’s connected-vehicle experience, based on automakers’ own proprietary systems, lacks the functionality and intuitiveness of mobile devices,” Koslowski noted to Computerworld.
Nokia has decades of experience in developing mapping and location services for cars, currently holding more than 80 percent of the global market share. Six thousand people worldwide maintain Nokia’s digital mapping and connected-car services with almost 3 million daily adjustments. The New York Times reports that Here’s yearly revenue is $1.1 billion, or less than 8 percent of Nokia’s total sales in 2014, according to company records.
In June 2014, Here acquired Medio Systems Inc., a Seattle-based company specialized in real-time predictive analytics. Building on Medio’s “smart data” asset enables Here, for instance, to deliver individual restaurant recommendations to someone ready for lunch, give drivers routes that match their driving styles based on real-time conditions or help businesses personalize their customer offerings.
“We are entering the age of what I call cognitive mapping, in which maps will understand their environment and anticipate people’s intent in order to deliver interactive and smart location experiences,” said Michael Halbherr, CEO of Here, in a press release. “We plan to extend Medio’s talent and technology that analyzes millions of connected devices and billions of interactions on the go to strengthen our ability to deliver highly personalized maps and location services for whatever people face throughout their day.”