Intel confirms 15% stake in mapping business Here to work on autonomous car tech

Here, the mapping and location services company once owned by Nokia and sold for €2.5 billion to a car-maker consortium of Audi, BMW and Daimler in 2015, is picking up a new investor today. Chipmaker Intel has confirmed that it is taking a 15 percent stake in the business, which it will use to develop autonomous positioning systems (powered with Intel Inside).

The companies are not disclosing the value of the stake, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017. At Here’s sale price in 2015, the stake would be worth $390 million in today’s currency.

“Cars are rapidly becoming some of the world’s most intelligent, connected devices,” said Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO, in a statement. “We look forward to working with HERE and its automotive partners to deliver an important technology foundation for smart and connected cars of the future.”

“A real-time, self-healing and high definition representation of the physical world is critical for autonomous driving, and achieving this will require significantly more powerful and capable in-vehicle compute platforms,” said Edzard Overbeek, Here CEO, in a statement. “As a premier silicon provider, Intel can help accelerate HERE’s ambitions in this area by supporting the creation of a universal, always up-to-date digital location platform that spans the vehicle, the cloud and everything else connected.”

The news follows a morning of speculation after it was reported that Intel had applied to Germany’s Cartel Office to approve the investment. It comes about a week after Singapore’s GIC, Tencent and NavInfo together agreed to take a 10% stake of Here. (That was a deal that was months and months in the making: NavInfo and Tencent had been in the running to acquire Here outright before the car consortium acquired it.)

Here is also working closely with Microsoft, which acquired other parts of Nokia and has been in an extended licensing agreement for location data as part of that transaction.

This is Intel’s latest — but not first — investment in automotive. Cars are a big area for the chipmaker as it looks to make sure that it has a place at the table for its processors in the next generation of computing devices, and connected cars have shaped up to be one of the chief targets. This week, the auto industry will especially be in the spotlight because of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — where cars have been growing in prominence as the “gadget of tomorrow” alongside computers, phones, washing machines, and more.

Intel’s other auto moves have included acquiring Itseez and Yogitech for safety and navigation functionalities in autonomous cars; a commitment of at least $250 million to the space; keeping a strong presence at auto shows, and in November launching a dedicated autonomous driving group. (Doug Davis, who heads that group, will now sit on Here’s board.)

With the Here investment, the plan is to design and deliver proof-of-concept architecture to improve driving safety and predictability.

Part of this will be to raise the accuracy of mapping data on Here: Today, locations can be mapped to an accuracy of of meters but the aim is to bring that down to centimeters in HD mapping technology — essential in self-driving systems where cars are navigating themselves on roads and needing to be more precise with their positioning in real-time.

Part of the deal will also include Intel working with Here’s other majority owners, Audi, BMW and Daimler to test its architecture. Intel and Here both say

Intel will also work with AUDI AG, BMW AG and Daimler AG to test the architecture, it said, and eventually offer it to other carmakers. “Intel and HERE envision making the architecture broadly available across the automotive industry as a seamlessly integrated offering that simplifies and shortens time of development for automakers.”