Nokia Announces $100 Million Connected Car Investment Fund

Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) will manage a $100 million fund, investing in location- and connected car–based technologies and services. 

Nokia, no longer a smartphone maker, has created a $100 million Connected Car fund that will identify and invest in innovations that will be "important for a world of connected and intelligent vehicles," the company said in a May 5 statement.

The fund will be managed by Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) and will closely align with Nokia's location-based Here suite, which is one of three Nokia businesses and is already deeply integrated in the connected car market. In its newly released 2013 annual report, Nokia described Here as focusing on the "development of location intelligence, location-based services and local commerce."

NGP will use the fund to make investments that support the ecosystem around Here's mapping and location products and services, Nokia said.

"For the last few years, there has been a surge in innovation that has brought technical advances leading to safer, cleaner, increasingly connected, intelligent and more affordable vehicles," Paul Asel, a partner at NGP, said in a statement. "Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption very similar to phones or tablets."

On April 29, Nokia announced the results of its 2014 first quarter and announced the appointment of Rajeev Suri as its new CEO. Suri had previously headed the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), the largest of Nokia's three businesses. (The third business is referred to as Technologies and includes patent-licensing and research activities.)

Suri, in the statement announcing his new role, called Nokia well-positioned to "tap new opportunities."

He added that upcoming changes in connectivity around the world will have an effect as profound as the creation of the Internet, and that Nokia's goal is to be a "leader in the technologies for a world where everybody and everything is connected."

New Focus, Same Competitors

Last summer Nokia's Here unit introduced Connected Driving, a service that enables automakers to connect vehicles and consumer devices to the cloud and to offer a more differentiated driving experience.

In pursuing the connected car market—which includes cars that can connect to the Internet, roadside infrastructure that will communicate with vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and even cars that can drive themselves—Nokia will be among the same rivals and partners as it was in the smartphone market.

BlackBerry's QNX software provides a foundation for connectivity in tens of millions of vehicles, including those that now include CarPlay, Apple's initiative to keep consumers within its ecosystem, even while driving.

Google, while also developing in-car solutions that compete with CarPlay, continues to develop self-driving cars, which it, and others, has said can save lives, reduce pollution and eliminate traffic congestion.

Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, announced April 28 that Google, having logged thousands of highway miles, is now focusing on city driving—a more difficult undertaking.

All of the major wireless carriers have connected car initiatives. AT&T, moving most aggressively of all, has created a garage-meets-developer-lab in Atlanta; announced partnerships to equip vehicles with its Single SIM, worry-free-roaming technology; and will this summer enable subscribers to add their vehicles to their shared data plans, as they would a tablet or hotspot.

"We believe that connected cars equipped with precise location awareness and sensor data can become powerful devices capable of helping drivers make sense of the world around them," Michael Halbherr, CEO of Here, said a May 5 statement.

"With more than 25 years of experience in creating automotive-grade maps for the automobile industry," he continued, "we look forward to working with promising companies in NGP's new fund to create a whole new class of services that keep drivers safe and connected."