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Where next for location data?

HERE shares its vision for the role of location intelligence within the mobility and logistics industries. By Megan Lampinen

The digital revolution is reshaping the automotive industry, turning vehicle manufacturers into smart mobility providers. Data is at the heart of this emerging ecosystem, and location-based data in particular is paving the way for new services and capabilities. Nobody does location data like HERE Technologies.

Automotive World Magazine – July 2022

The company was recently recognised as the top ranked location platform by industry analysts at Strategy Analytics. Today there are about 150 million vehicles across more than 50 automotive brands with HERE data and solutions on board. The company’s real-time traffic data, hazard warning and other vehicle services are drawing on input from more than 34 million connected vehicle. Those services, and the vehicles powering them, are poised for considerable growth in the years ahead.

Niko Boeker, Senior Manager of Industry Solutions Automotive at HERE, closely monitors market trends to pinpoint areas of overlap with the company’s own capabilities and portfolio. The aim is to spot potential growth opportunities as well as gaps in the market. While HERE’s data and the use cases it supports have soared over the past few years, the momentum shows no signs of slowing.

HERE powers BMW’s Connected Navigation Services with real-time traffic information

Everyone is talking about the software-defined vehicle. What does that mean for HERE?

By definition, a shift towards software-defined means a complete paradigm shift and rethinking on the automotive OEM side. Automakers are well known for their expertise at bending metal. This kind of hardware engineering will remain relevant, but it becomes challenged by new requirements around software. The software-defined vehicle will be defined by the quality and capabilities of its software stack and the compute platform underneath it. With this coming change, companies like HERE can benefit from more open sourcing and new opportunities to participate in more of the software stack.

Broadly speaking, what does that mean for the value chain?

Automakers are ramping up capabilities in-house to capture more of the emerging value chain. Their profit margins are already extremely thin, and everyone is hoping to see that change as they become stronger in the software department. At the same time, we see the decoupling of application software from computing platforms with the focus on faster innovation cycles and time to market. Over-the-air (OTA) updates hold the promise of being able to update and upgrade systems, vehicles, and user experiences at any given time throughout the entire life cycle of the vehicle.

Where do location services fit into this new digital ecosystem?

Location is core in realising many of the services that are meant to bring in new revenue streams in the future. The navigation use case is one that’s very much a commodity and simply expected. However, if you combine that with aspects of driver safety and semi-automated driving, it becomes extremely relevant for you to locate yourself, to get an understanding of what the vehicle perceives and where it’s headed. Beyond that, it’s about having reassurance that the vehicle has additional levels of redundancy built into it when location is acting as another input compared to sensor-only automated driving systems.

Some automakers may claim there is no need for a map to create a top-notch driving experience or facilitate automated driving. What’s your response to that?

We know that there are some hardcore players claiming that, including Tesla. For us, there’s very little doubt that this is extremely relevant. The map is basically another sensor built into the vehicle, a key to delivering the kind of systems that are needed. There are many services that rely on location data and location insights, like in-car advertising and commerce. While you’re on the go you want to know what’s along your route, so it’s extremely relevant.

With the move to software-defined vehicles, should we expect to see an acceleration of next-generation digital cockpits?

For sure. This market is driven by the end consumer. Shoppers today expect a ‘wow’ factor. A digital cockpit that goes wider than just the infotainment screen is one aspect that plays a role here. This is linked to the software-defined vehicle, and the architectures that are moving towards more standardised platforms will facilitate much of this and lead to more scalability. They will make it more attractive for players to enter that space and look for solutions that can be reused for other OEMs.

What expectations do OEMs have for independent software vendors in this environment?

Their focus is on finding the right partner that is flexible enough to cater to more agile ways of development. There will be more expectations around new business models, as became public recently with Mercedes who strengthened its ties with Nvidia and confirmed mechanisms for revenue share for digital services and features. OEMs have concluded that they can’t do everything by themselves; they simply won’t be able to hire as many developers as they would like. It’s going to be much more about thinking in terms of partnerships rather than the traditional buyer/supplier kind of relationship.

Why is it important to have homogenous functionality between features like navigation, intelligent speed assistance (ISA) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)?         

We have reached the stage where Level 2+ automated driving is becoming much more normal on the production lines. But here, and to some extent even with Level 3, the driver still needs to be alert about what’s going on. There also has to be trust that the vehicle knows what the vehicle is doing. The handover situation between vehicle and driver will be built around trust in the vehicle’s capabilities, in its visibility. What you see as a driver in your navigation system is extremely relevant in terms of trust, confidence building, and overall user experience.

HERE’s location intelligence is being put to work generating data from the warehouse floor. This will enable businesses to make better informed decisions on how they can streamline operations

What’s the market’s perception of head-up display and real-time 3D navigation with augmented reality software maps?

We are seeing the first real market examples from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Hyundai. It’s expensive technology right now, at least if it’s something like windscreen projection, but as camera technology and correction becomes better, there’s very little doubt that this is the way to go.

What’s your own experience of this?

I much prefer to use a HUD for key information relevant for the driving task. I am very much looking forward to also having the additional comfort of an augmented reality overlay that directly guides you through a road network and also indicates certain hazardous situations. That brings much more quality in terms of confident driving. It takes away the need to look at the different screens in the cockpit, which are getting bigger and brighter, and helps drivers keep their eyes on the road while still receiving information that’s relevant.

This tech is still too pricy for most buyers and mass market manufacturers. What’s the outlook on that front?

With greater market penetration, the cost will decline and eventually this will become a commodity. It starts with the premium brands but already the Volkswagen ID.3  offers a pretty decent experience. That’s probably the lowest segment car to feature this, but I would expect greater market adoption in the western markets in the next three to six years.

Where does HERE’s data marketplace fit into these wider trends?

We believe in the relevance of having a unified data source serving all the different automotive use cases. There has been tremendous momentum with ADAS and ISA, and that points to how the legislation is helping with market adoption. What is really critical from both a user and a sourcing perspective is for OEMs to have this simplified and broken down to one supplier providing the location intelligence and the data needed for those use cases.

That ties into the software-defined vehicle concept, where automakers want to tap into that in a very easy way. These assets already exist today, offered by us, and they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Almost everything that we have–our APIs, content, software solutions and SDKs—are all fed by and served by our HERE platform. In that sense, it is catering to the connected vehicle today and the software-defined vehicle tomorrow.

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