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German Car Makers Put Silicon Valley on Notice With Nokia Maps Deal

Here today, gone tomorrow.
August 3, 2015, 5:22pm

Silicon Valley may not have a stranglehold on driverless car technology for much longer.

A trio of German automakers, including Audi, BMW, and Daimler, just spent 2.8 billion euros (about $3.1 billion) on Here, Nokia's mapping division. Nokia, which is currently transition away from consumer-facing businesses, had been trying to offload the unit for several months now, while the automakers get their hands on a tangible piece of tech that may help them shape the next generation of driverless cars.

Nokia's Here mapping technology is able to create highly detailed maps of city streets—the kind of maps needed to tell a driverless car how to get from Point A to Point B. By owning this technology, the German automakers are able to establish a check against the likes of Google and Uber, both of which are developing their own driverless car technology: Google's cars are famously already on the roads of states like California and Texas, while Uber is currently researching the technology. After all, why bother maintaining a fleet of human-controlled cars when a self-driving car can do the same work without needing pesky things like money?

Uber was reportedly interested in buying Here, in part to avoid being dependent on Apple and Google for their own mapping technology. Instead, Uber struck a deal with Microsoft to buy part of that company's Bing mapping tech, including about 100 employees. Microsoft then reportedly returned the favor by investing $100 million in Uber. Life's good when you can fight City Hall and win.