Germany’s three big car makers are so scared of Google dominating the market for self-driving cars, they’re teaming up with Chinese search giant Baidu to buy Nokia’s maps business.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Audi, BMW, and Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) are preparing to launch a formal bid for Nokia Here, the mapping unit owned by the former phone maker, that values the business at “considerably more” than” €2 billion.
Digital maps are considered a fundamental building block for self-driving cars, which are currently under development by most automakers and by tech companies such as Google and Uber.
A source told the Journal, “The greatest threat to the automobile industry would be if Google developed an operating system for self-driving cars and made it available free to everyone.”
That’s more or less what Google did with Android when the smartphone market started to take off. Google was concerned that another player (first Microsoft, then Apple) would dominate smartphones and squeeze it out of the mobile search business. So Google bought Android, then released the core Android operating system under an open source licence, giving device makers everything they needed to create their own smartphone platforms.
At the same time, Google signed on a bunch of phone makers and wireless carriers to sell phones with additional Google services installed.
The result? Android is the dominant mobile platform in the world, with close to 80% market share in Q1 2015, according to Gartner.
Mapping was important to Nokia when it was making smartphones, but it sold that business to Microsoft in 2014. Now, it’s looking to boost its telecommunications infrastructure business by buying Alcatel-Lucent for $US17 billion, and said it was exploring a spinoff of Here in April.
The deal is expected to close within two weeks, reports the Journal.