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One map to rule them all, it's Here

Automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler presented their vision for a new communal acquisition, map-making company Here.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Daimler AG

We think of street maps as relatively static, only changing when a city builds a new road, but for the driver, roads change on a minute-by-minute basis due to traffic, collisions and events. Here, a digital map-making company acquired by automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler from Nokia last August, intends to create high-precision, dynamic maps and offer them to not only other automakers, but every business that needs location data.

Here celebrated the second day of its formal acquisition with a panel including representatives from Audi, BMW and Daimler with the aim of presenting its vision and clarifying the future of the company.

Under Nokia, Here developed digital maps using its True Car mapping vehicles, and also gathered probe data from connected cars to analyze real-time incidents. Spurring its acquisition, the group of three German automakers saw a need for a common, high-precision map platform as a necessary means to produce highly autonomous vehicles. The resulting company counts Audi, BMW and Daimler as its founding shareholders, but has been set up to provide its mapping data through standardized protocols useful to all.

Recognizing that crowd-sourced data benefits from a bigger crowd, Audi's Head of Infotainment, Dr. Peter Steiner, said that the new Here company would be an open consortium, inviting any other customers and partners who would like to join. Further, he noted that beyond automakers, the company would be open to other businesses. For example, Here could not only gather and analyze location data from cars, but also from mobile phones, tracking pedestrian flow.

Traffic flow information could go far beyond current traffic data that appears on navigation systems and map apps, being used by cities to enable dynamic traffic signs and even detecting anomalies such as slippery streets, represented by cars deviating from typical GPS-plotted courses.

The consortium members noted the need for privacy, as this data would be aggregated rather than contain individual identifiers. BMW spokesperson Dave Buchko noted the European origins of the consortium, which would ensure application of strong European Union privacy law. Comparing Here to Google's Maps service, Steiner said that, as an open partnership, Here would not engage in marketing private information, instead only using its location data to enable transportation.

BMW R&D chief Klaus Froehlich said that the development of Here's new catalog of what it calls HD mapping data would take two to three years. However, he also boasted that the maps could be implemented in BMW models as soon as they came available.