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Finnish technology company Nokia has confirmed an agreement to sell its Here digital mapping and location services business to a new joint venture partnership between Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler.

The deal will form part of Nokia’s plan to focus on networking technologies,  but for Here’s new German owners, the acquisition is an important building block in the development of fully autonomous vehicles.

Valued at €2.8 billion (AU$4.2 billion), the deal could also be seen as something of a bargain for the German consortium, with Nokia building the Here platform out of a US$8.1 billion purchase of mapping company Navteq in 2008.

A joint statement today highlights plans for Audi, BMW and Daimler to utilise Here’s advanced mapping infrastructure and traffic information to build and maintain the data systems that autonomous vehicles must use to safely navigate public roads.

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“HERE is laying the foundations for the next generation of mobility and location based services. For the automotive industry this is the basis for new assistance systems and ultimately fully autonomous driving,” the statement reads.

“Extremely precise digital maps will be used in combination with real-time vehicle data in order to increase road safety and to facilitate innovative new products and services. On the basis of the shared raw data, all automobile manufacturers can offer their customers differentiated and brand-specific services.”

The joint venture has confirmed that it will continue to make the Here service available to other carmakers, and to companies and organisations in other industries.

Here will continue to operate as an independent business, with all three of its new owners vowing not to interfere with the mapping company’s operations.

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Here has grown to become a major supplier of mapping and navigation data to carmakers, covering around 80 percent of the industry.

Dutch company Tomtom is Here’s only major rival, and a newly announced map development partnership with Bosch could see the company grow its share as it works to develop its own high-definition data for autonomous vehicles.

Likewise, Google is known to be using its own advanced maps systems to guide driverless prototypes it has been testing in the US.

Earlier suitors for the Here business are believed to have included Microsoft, Chinese digital technology company Baidu, and a partnership spearheaded by London private equity firm Apax and online car booking company Uber.




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