Ahead of this week’s Paris Motor Show, HERE announced how its Open Location Platform (OLP) aims to gather real-time data from sensors on board of connected vehicles to create a live assessment of road environment that will make driving more secure for drivers as well as driverless cars. In order to achieve this goal, HERE will start sourcing sensor data from Audi, BMW and Mercedez-Bens. More brands will be added over time.
The data provided anonymously by the car makers will be the basis of four distinct services:
HERE Real-Time Traffic
HERE Hazard Warnings
HERE Road Signs
HERE On Street Parking
These services will be made available to any auto maker, municipality, road authority, smartphone maker and developer to license. While connected cars today are still limited, HERE is expecting other auto makers to join the current lineup and contribute their car data.
Openness in data sharing, which is a first in the automotive market, clearly shows how much is at stake for car vendors.
HERE Focuses on the Bigger Picture
HERE has come a long way since launching as the separate brand mapping service of phone maker Nokia. From a pure mapping service for consumers, it built a strong enterprise business and white-labeled its maps for big names such as Amazon, Facebook, and Baidu. In 2015, HERE was bought by a consortium of German car manufacturers that included Volkswagen (Audi’s parent company), Daimler (Mercedes-Benz parent company), and BMW. Since then, HERE has been moving fast in closing more enterprise deals and expanding the consumer offering with HereWeGo which really takes the brand from offering a mapping service to offering a transportation concierge service.
HERE’s mapping apps on iOS and Android have very positive reviews but uptake remains limited, especially in markets like the US. This is not necessarily because of the superiority of Google or Apple maps but because consumers tend to use what comes as a default or is linked to a popular brand. These entrenched behaviors keep Google Maps as king of a castle. Trying to change that would require a lot of effort and marketing dollars, with a return on investment that would likely not be significant enough for HERE.
The recent announcement from HERE makes a lot of sense when it comes to how the OLP could become a more critical consumer enabler, albeit an invisible one. We spend so much time looking at Google and Apple, we sometimes forget consumer engagement is not just valuable when there is a direct return on your own brand. In other words, HERE cannot be successful outside the enterprise only by becoming a strong consumer brand.
What is at Stake?
The data that cars will be able to collect will be key more than the services both as a source of revenue and an engagement point with users. Artificial intelligence in the car will benefit tremendously from all this information and so will our personal assistants.
Google has been at this for years when it comes to collecting data for its map service, both from a world layout perspective and user preference and habits, including catching Pokémons. Smartphones have democratized navigation in the car, preventing the attach rate of built-in navigation from really taking off. While the integration of navigation has been trickling down from luxury models to more basic ones, the premium consumers still have to pay for navigation and cost of keeping the maps updated are still negatively impacting in-built navigation.
Semi-autonomous and autonomous cars might change the rule of engagement with consumers who are starting to rely more on what comes built into the car and, over time, using their phones as a secondary screen. If you see maps and the data as the intelligence that powers your smart assistant, you can see how the model that HERE is setting up offers big upsides.
Of course, Google and Apple will try and own that whole experience from maps to virtual assistants, but car vendors have the opportunity to offer an alternative by integrating HERE services out of the box — or, in this case, out of the garage — and let the virtual assistant the user prefers (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google assistant) tap into the data and be my interface.
There will also be consumers who do not buy into the virtual assistant scenario but would love to have a chauffeur in the sense of a curated, safe driving experience. This is another role car vendors might want to play. The key to success, however, is not to make these features premium and static. Innovation in the mobile world happens faster and would always offer consumers more for less.
Of course, as HERE does not just make this data available to car vendors, the opportunities to be the data engine for players wanting a piece of the pie of the connected car will be endless.