The digital mapping company HERE has revealed that it will be acquiring Advanced Telematic Systems, a German “over-the-air” software updating service for connected and self-driving vehicles.
The exact terms of the deal to acquire Advanced Telematic Systems (ATS) haven’t been publicly revealed, but it is known that the deal is expected to close by early 2018 or so.
The stated motive behind the deal, going on statements from execs at HERE, is to improve the company’s market position with regard to the expected large-scale rollout of self-driving vehicle tech over the coming decade. HERE, of course, specializes in location and cloud services for connected cars (a tech which commercial self-driving vehicles will essentially represent the culmination of).
“Data and software delivery is a defining factor for future success within the automotive industry as vehicles are becoming more connected and autonomous,” stated Ralf Herrtwich, SVP Automotive of HERE Technologies, “The acquisition of ATS is a hugely important strategic investment for us to complement our portfolio as a premium automotive cloud provider. I’m excited to welcome Armin and his team into the HERE family.”
And here’s more of HERE’s pitch for itself via that press release: “With its map data inside more than 100 million cars, HERE is the world’s number one provider of location data for the automotive industry. Increasingly, high-precision location data are being delivered over the air, aiding automation and driving decisions, and supporting increased safety and faster journeys. With the advent of autonomous driving, for example, cars will draw on HD maps that are continuously updating to provide a near real-time picture of the road environment. For this, powerful OTA solutions will be vital.”
Here’s more history and context on the matter, courtesy of Reuters: “HERE was itself sold to Nokia to Audi, BMW and Daimler in 2015 for more than $2 billion and functions as a research lab for the carmakers as they seek to counter the competitive threat from US electric vehicle maker Tesla. Its mapping technology competes with Alphabet’s Google Maps and Dutch rival TomTom.”
“HERE, the biggest provider of digital maps for the automotive industry, spent €640 million (~$760 million) on research and development in 2016, or around 55% of its sales of €1.16 billion, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.”
As pioneered by Tesla, updating the systems used in connected cars (and in the future in self-driving vehicles and taxis) through over-the-air software upgrades, rather than through in-person visits to service centers, allows auto manufacturers and/or fleet operators to easily and cheaply keep everything up to date.
As a result, over-the-air software updates stand to become the standard before too long — with use in most self-driving vehicles possibly being a given. Hence the interest in ATS from HERE.
So, it seems these large automakers have a plan. Though, well known (and accomplished) hacker and now self-driving tech entrepreneur, George Hotz (aka geohot), recently had some stark criticisms of Big Auto’s approach to self-driving tech and over-the-air software updates (especially compared to Tesla’s approach). If you missed that, check out the article or just watch the CleanTechnica video of the presentation and Q&A: