Three German carmakers — Audi, BMW, and Daimler — have together agreed in principle to buy Nokia's Here mapping service, in a deal estimated to be worth just over â¬2.5 billion ($2.71 billion), a report said on Tuesday.
Nokia has been talking exclusively with the three carmakers, and an agreement could be signed "in the next few days," a source told the Wall Street Journal. The latter parties, though, are expected to turn around and invite other car companies to buy stakes in the new entity.
"The goal has always been to run the service as an open platform for everyone," the source commented.
Ridesharing giant Uber was also in the running to buy Here, but reportedly gave up on bidding several weeks ago. Private equity investors have separately been exploring an acquisition.
Although a Here takeover could give the car companies access to a user-friendly, in-car mapping platform without having to turn to parties like Google or Garmin, the long-term interest may be in self-driving vehicles, which will demand close integration of mapping, controls and sensors.
A number of companies — chiefly Google — have been working towards the goal of having self-driving cars on the market by 2020, whether on their own or in various partnerships. Another rumored example is Apple, which is believed to be devoting so many resources to a car project, codenamed Titan, that it's impacting other departments. The company recently hired a Chrysler executive, and has been poaching talent from firms like Tesla and battery maker A123.