Big moves in the mapping industry and Apple on the move.
Understanding the importance of maps to autonomous vehicle mobility, Uber acquired Bing Maps technology.
Audi, BMW and Daimler purchased Nokia’s mapping division, Here, for $3.1 billion US. This was a strategic acquisition as the auto manufacturers compete with Google and other tech giants for the mapping technology key to the commercialization of driverless vehicles. The auto manufacturers’ plan is to pool real-time data (example: information on icy roads). They insist Here will be run as an open platform to the benefit of all Here‘s customers.
Other reasons why the purchase of Here was important to the German automakers:
- The auto OEMs can receive the licensing fees from major companies such as Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Flickr, SAP, and Oracle that already rely on the Here mapping platform.
- The deal will allow automakers to take control of user location data and monetize it through local advertising.
- Mapping is essential to vehicle automation and it makes a whole lot of sense that automotive companies will want to have control of that information.
- Shutting out Google and other mapping giants.
Delphi announced acquisitions (including automated-driving technology producer Ottomatika and Quanergy Systems, a company that develops light detection and ranging scanners enabling cars to locate objects and generate digital maps) enabling the company to better compete in the autonomous vehicle space.
TomTom and Bosch will be collaborating on the development of highly accurate maps for autonomous vehicles.
Recognizing the value of data and that future mobility will be controlled by data, car manufacturers are limiting the data they share with technology partners like Apple and Google.
In the last few weeks, we have witnessed more signs that Apple might be getting into the auto business. The tech giant has hired two individuals: Doug Betts (formerly Chrysler’s quality chief & SVP) and Paul Furgale (Swiss autonomous vehicle and robotics expert). Apple also hired a senior engineer Jamie Carlson from Tesla Motors, as part of Apple‘s effort to build a team of experts in automated driving. At least six others with experience developing self-driving technology and systems have joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Further potential evidence: Apple boosted its R&D budget by $1.5 billion. In addition, Apple representative visit to a BMW factory have fuelled rumours of a possible partnership between the two companies. Further, The Guardian claims to have accessed documents indicating that Apple engineers from the company’s “secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles”. While no confirmation has been provided by Apple, the signs are indicating that the company is in fact working on the development of an electric, self-driving vehicle.
Microsoft has reportedly agreed to invest in Uber as part of a funding round that values the ride-hailing company at about $US51 billion.
Delphi Automotive bought Ottomatika, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that supplied software used to pilot the self-driving Audi across the US earlier this year.
The world’s largest automotive company by revenue is redefining its strategy regarding manufacturing and distribution of automobiles. Toyota believes the future of mobility for urbanites lies in covering distances between transit and destination (home / work). It therefore wants to rebrand itself as a public transport provider, not merely a vehicle manufacturer.
Hoping to grab a piece of the driverless car investment pie, Australia is gearing for autonomous vehicle trials. We learned that Audi could be preparing to test autonomous cars in this country. Meanwhile, in the UK, the government has released rules to get self-driving vehicles onto public roads.
In the US, a variety of stakeholders from numerous industries (including auto manufacturing, insurance and telecommunications) have come together to develop a “fake” city in Michigan for the testing of connected and driverless vehicle technology. Michigan is only one of the states looking to attract automakers and tech companies to undertake testing of driverless vehicles. Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Texas and California are but some of the states all vying for a piece of the R&D pie.
In the last month, it was revealed that Google set up Google Auto in 2011. The company is a licensed auto manufacturer. The company’s self-driving vehicle technology is being tested in Texas. Google sees several benefits to doing this, including testing in a new environment with new challenges, being exposed to viewpoints beyond those of Silicon Valley and a relaxed regulatory environment with no reporting requirements.
The CEO of SNCF, the French railway company that runs the high-speed TGV has stated that he wants the company to offer door-to-door mobility services: “We can’t just provide trains; we have to consider those last few miles people want to travel as well. So we want to offer bikes, electric cars, car sharing, carpooling, light rail systems.”
Also from France, Ségolène Royal, the Minister for Ecology, confirmed driverless vehicles would soon be tested on France’s roads and highways.