The big three German luxury carmakers, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW are reportedly nearing a deal with Nokia to purchase the telecomm company’s "Here" mapping and location business. The deal is rumored to cost between 2.5 and 3 billion euros ($2.74 to $3.29 billion) and would provide fully autonomous cars with the means to talk to mobile networks.

That’s the news coming from Reuters, which cites two unidentified sources “familiar with the deal.”

The system would provide self-driving cars with the necessary connectivity to receive real-time data updates, thus enabling them to perform functions like recalculate a route around a traffic jam or accident on the road ahead.

In order to navigate real-world streets, fully autonomous vehicles must process tons of data, including information provided by onboard sensors like radar and lidar. However, in order to function on a long-range scale, the cars must also maintain a connection to constantly updated telecomm infrastructure.

In addition to ownership of all relevant patents, the purchase could also include multi-year commitments to improve the system’s map data quality. The deal is expected to reach finalization by the end of the month, but is by no means guaranteed.

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Why it matters

While it may appear as though the big three like to copy each other move for move in the ongoing struggle for worldwide luxury vehicle dominance, this level of cooperation is a first.

This is a major purchase, and it speaks to the importance of systems like Here for the evolution of the car.

This is a major purchase, and it speaks to the importance of systems like Here for the evolution of the car. As we near the tipping point for widespread adoption of fully autonomous vehicles, it appears as though the old guard might be getting a wee bit nervous.

What’s at stake? Imagine the major automakers losing its customers to vast fleets of self-driving taxis from the likes of Uber, Google and Apple. Suddenly, offering 15 more horsepower than a rival isn’t quite as important as it used to be.

All three auto manufacturers are busy working on their own fully autonomous vehicles, occasionally bringing the latest development to light for a splash of publicity. However, it’s the integration of systems like Here that represent the real nitty gritty in the transition to full autonomy.

Source: Reuters

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