HERE CEO: Mastering Maps Is Essential For Driverless Cars’ Future

'We need more than just a few sources for mapping the world,' to make autonomous cars viable, says HERE CEO Edzard Overbeek.

The pieces for bringing driverless cars to the mass market is quickly getting into place, but as HERE CEO Edzard Overbeek notes, there remain hurdles to make the technology truly realized.

Following his appearance to discuss the topic autonomous vehicle with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche at SxSW last week, Overbeek made his case for why digital mapping is at the center of any driverless car program.

Location And The Power of IoT

HERE, along with the consortium of German automakers (Daimlier, AUDI, and BMW) that acquired a majority stake the digital navigation platform for $3 billion in 2015, has been intensely focused on building up its own capabilities to power driverless cars through a series of platform and car manufacturer partnerships over the past year. Most recently, it struck separate deals that revolve around autonomous vehicles with Intel and Mazda.

In a broader sense, the race to power autonomous vehicles by the likes of Uber, Google, Samsung, and others with maps is actually part of a larger competition for revenues that will be tied to the burgeoning Internet of Things.

Just as the smartphone opened up even greater vistas in marketing, the rise of IoT will significantly alter the way all businesses function and the way consumers move around the world in general.

Automakers are among the largest advertisers and a car is one of the most important and central considered purchases a person makes, apart from where they live. And it’s no coincidence that the connected home is already a reality for many consumers via voice-activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. And all the IoT that will stretch from a person’s home to their car to will also follow them where they work and live.

Therefore, the companies that provide the backbone to autonomous vehicle mapping technology will also have a direct pipeline to consumers and businesses in all facets.

Skimming The Surface

In the case of companies like HERE, maps inform autonomous cars’ sensors that give the virtual driver a 360 degree of the world around the vehicle, including surrounding environmental details and conditions that go beyond whether to make the next left or right.

“Unlike onboard cameras and radars… maps can also ‘see around the corner,'” Overbeek writes in a recap of his SxSW discussion. “They can know about icy roads and accidents along the route, prevent you from getting stuck in the traffic jam ahead, and help you find that last free parking spot downtown.

“First, though, we need to remap the world in 3D, as autonomous cars need to be able to see all around them if they are to navigate the streets safely and efficiently,” he continues. “This, as you can imagine, is not a small task, and HERE is currently measuring more than 30,000 street miles each week down to one-inch precision and up to a height of 130 feet, all over the world.”

In Overbeek’s pitch for HERE as the platform to bring the driverless car future to fruition, he says that even now, the company is just skimming the surface.

“By making sense of several data sources, we can evolve from building way finders for cars,” Overbeek says, “to creating a digital representation of the physical world and solutions for devices like drones that can move in all directions.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.