Audi, BMW and Daimler AG are in talks with Nokia to acquire its Nokia Here digital mapping division to help drive future in-vehicle navigation systems, including for autonomous cars.
The rumored $2.71 billion deal is near completion, according to a July 21 story by The Wall Street Journal that is based on an unnamed source familiar with the talks. "Nokia has been negotiating exclusively with the three carmakers over the sale of the company, whose development of high-definition real-time digital maps is seen as a core technology in the development of self-driving vehicles, and a vast array of future automotive safety systems," The Journal reported.
After acquiring 100 percent of Nokia Here, the three automakers would then seek to involve other vehicle manufacturers to buy into the company, the story reported.
"The goal has always been to run the service as an open platform for everyone," the source told The Journal. "The final signing could take place in the next few days."
In-vehicle mapping and navigation systems continue to expand, with automakers around the world adding connected mapping services to their vehicles, often even in less expensive car and truck lines, due to increasing consumer demand. The built-in systems are profit-padding accessories for carmakers as they look to give consumers the mapping services they seek, instead of having to resort to plug-in, dash-mounted third-party GPS units or map apps on smartphones or tablets.
Nokia has been working on in-vehicle mapping for quite a while, and in August 2013, the company's Nokia Here business unit launched its Connected Driving service that was designed to help carmakers and in-vehicle technology suppliers connect the car and the driver to the cloud, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Connected Driving offers a range of automotive products and services that builds on the company's mapping technology to provide customizable features on a flexible framework that allows automakers to differentiate the driving experience. It aimed to help solve problems that drivers face daily, such as syncing routes and other personal information across their car and devices, and finding the right parking spot or closest gas station.
Nokia's Here Auto service was built to provide in-car navigation and maps without a data connection. Drivers can get turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation in more than 95 countries and 2D, 3D and satellite map views including street-level imagery, with more improvements to come.
Nokia has been undergoing quite a transition from its past leadership role in the smartphone and cell phone marketplace. With the $7.1 billion sale of its smartphone division to Microsoft in April 2014, Nokia left a business where it had been a major player for more than a decade. It looked like Nokia was done with smartphones.
But earlier this month, Nokia announced that it is getting back into the smartphone game with plans to design and then license some new smartphone models in the future, leaving the actual manufacturing, sales and marketing to third-party companies, according to a recent eWEEK report. The smartphone work will start after the fourth quarter of 2016, when such work is permitted again under the 2014 deal with Microsoft.
Nokia did something like that before in November 2014, when the company announced its first-ever Android tablet computer, the N1, which is built under license by a third-party device manufacturer.
In May 2014, Nokia announced the creation of a $100 million Connected Car fund designed to identify and invest in innovations that would be important for a world of connected and intelligent vehicles, according to an earlier eWEEK story.