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Microsoft And Amazon Have A Plan For Driverless Cars

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/04/2016 Casey Williams
RELDBMGF20000007293 © Mike Segar / Reuters RELDBMGF20000007293

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Amazon.com and Microsoft are in talks to supply cloud computing to digital mapping business HERE, owned by a group of German carmakers developing self-driving cars, sources familiar with the matter said.

Amazon is also considering becoming a shareholder in HERE, two sources said.

Last year, carmakers BMW, Audi and Mercedes struck a 2.5 billion euro ($2.85 billion) deal to buy Nokia's HERE maps business.

Intelligent mapping systems supply information to control self-driving cars, which are equipped with street-scanning sensors to measure traffic and road conditions. This location data can in turn be shared with other map users.

"Amazon would take a stake as part of a broader deal to lock them in as a provider of cloud computing services," one source familiar with the talks said.

"Microsoft is also interested in closer ties to HERE," another source familiar with the talks said.

Microsoft declined to comment. Amazon did not respond to requests to comment.

Audi, the premium brand owned by Volkswagen, Daimler - the parent company of Mercedes-Benz - and BMW declined to comment on talks with potential new partners.

The consortium needs cloud computing providers to manage the mountains of data collected from sensors on thousands of Mercedes, BMW and Audi cars. These digital maps allow cars to avoid traffic jams or hazards such as ice.

"The new owners Audi, Daimler and BMW have said from the start that they are open for new partners to join," BMW said in a statement. "We have noticed that there is lots of interest not only from potential partners from within the automotive industry, but also from other sectors."

The consortium has started negotiations with potential new partners, including both rival carmakers and potential technology suppliers.

Having more carmakers on board will spread the cost of investments required to develop the digital mapping business, and could improve the volume of data about traffic information being fed into the map database from vehicles on the road.

Renault and automotive supplier Continental have both expressed interest.

Continental said on Thursday a decision on whether to buy a stake in HERE would be made within the next few months.

Ford is also among the companies interested in taking a stake in the HERE consortium, a third auto industry source said on Thursday.

Asked whether Ford was in talks with the group about taking a stake in HERE, a spokesman for the company said: "We have been and will continue working with many companies and discussing a variety of subjects." He declined further comment.

Self-driving and connected car services could become a $50 billion market, analysts at Exane BNP Paribas have estimated.

($1 = 0.8758 euros)

(Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer, Ilona Wissenbach and Mari Saito. Editing by Jane Merriman and Susan Thomas)

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