BMW, Mercedes, and Audi are sharing data to advance their driverless car efforts and take on the likes of Google. The three automakers are supplying digital map maker HERE with real-time data gathered by their cars. The data will include detailed information on traffic jams, potential road hazards like inclement weather, speed limit changes, and open parking spots, HERE wrote in a press release. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi acquired HERE, the former mapping division of Nokia, for $3.1 billion in 2015.
Having detailed maps is a huge part of advancing self-driving cars to the point where they can hit the roads entirely on their own. Essentially, the maps give self-driving cars a template of what they can expect to see when on a certain route. If the cars then detect something nearby using their sensors that isn’t on the map, like a pedestrian, they know to stop and assess the situation.
Crowdsourcing real-time data picked up by BMW, Mercedes, and Audi cars will help advance HERE’s digital maps in a way that can’t be done when only one automaker is contributing the data. Take Toyota, for example, which gathers information from its customers’ camera-equipped vehicles to create high-precision maps. Its maps may be less sophisticated than the ones generated by HERE simply because they have less data to pull from for accurate, real-time traffic information.
Google paid a little over $1 billion for Waze in 2013 and is truly the company to beat when it comes to maps. Anyone who drives around with Waze opened on their phone is providing real-time data on traffic conditions and roads. It’s a smart way to get up-to-date information on routes because it isn’t limited by which vehicle you drive since anyone with a smartphone can use it.
HERE plans to eventually pull data from other automakers aside from just BMW, Mercedes, and Audi, it wrote in the press release. If HERE can get enough automakers on board, it has a real shot of competing with Google’s Waze. HERE’s crowdsourced mapping system will roll out in the first half of 2017.