According to sources familiar to the matter, Uber, the taxi app firm that allows its customers to book a taxi from their smartphones, plans to make a huge step towards distancing itself from Google Maps. The sources said that the company wants to buy Google Maps’ major competitor Here (which is currently owned by Finland-based Nokia) for $3 billion.
But its bid meant to end its drivers’ dependency on Google Maps when looking for a location is competing with other bids coming from automotive industry giants such as BMW and Mercedes Benz which also plan to purchase the business.
Sources also disclosed that automakers plan to strike a deal with the developers of Baidu, a Chinese search engine, if the agreement with Nokia is approved. Nokia, which announced last month that it was selling Here, will decide whom it will sell the business to by the end of this month. Moreover, an equity firm contacted the Finnish tech giant to launch an undisclosed bid, sources claim.
But as negotiations may see new players entering the scene, the talks may not lead to a definite result by the end of May, sources claim. Nevertheless, taking into account the sums involved, digital mapping services look like a domain with a huge potential as more and more companies move their businesses online.
Microsoft and Facebook have also eyed Here, but negotiations stalled.
Additionally, automakers’ interest in the mapping service may be linked to the emergence of self-driving cars that need the most accurate mapping data on the market to be able to operate worldwide. In February, Uber quietly opened a research center mainly focused on driverless cars and digital mapping services and purchased deCarta, a digital mapping start-up.
So, people began to speculate that the next logical step for Uber would be self-driving cars, which would put their partners “out of job.”
Although the number of Google Maps mobile users is ten times larger than that of Nokia’s Here users, the Finish company has an advantage – it managed to infiltrate the automotive industry a lot deeper than its rivals Google and Apple did.
Car navigation systems currently heavily rely on Nokia technology, so the company has to spend zillion of dollars on a yearly basis to keep its maps up to date. Its Germany-based Here business has more than 6,000 employees that work day and night to keep the maps accurate. About every day, Here maps are updated about three million times.
According to Nokia, its digital mapping business generates more than $1 billion every year, which accounts for 8 percent of its total sales recorded last year.
Tech experts all agree that Nokia’s mapping tool is the most competitive alternative to Google Maps at this moment since providing accurate and up-to-date mapping data is not something anyone can do due to high costs and research efforts involved.
But if Uber manages to buy the business, all these problems would get solved. Here could be coupled with Uber Pool, the taxi company’s ridesharing mobile app which matches riders based on geolocation.
Image Source: Tienphong