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Mitsubishi Electric Taps HERE To Support Driverless Car Program

"While our initial focus will be on self-driving cars, over time we see our collaboration broadening as we explore powerful new services and business models for the emerging autonomous world," says Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE Technologies.

Navigation technology software provider HERE has signed on Mitsubishi Electric as its latest partner in its race to pioneer the autonomous car.

The companies plan will initially focus on ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) such as cruise control since those are technologies that are available right now. Ultimately, advancements in current driver assistance features will carry HERE and Mitsubish Electric through to the fully autonomous vehicles of the future.

In addition to features related to the familiar cruise control, HERE and Mitsubishi will support smart lane-level guidance for vehicles based on real-time information about traffic conditions and incidents. They will also evaluate how information from vehicle sensors gathered by Mitsubishi Electric can be utilized for high-definition map updates.

Mapping technology is an obvious component in driverless car systems, naturally. And as Google and Uber continue their respective work on autonomous vehicles, the major auto companies have been scrambling to partner with companies like HERE, which have a distinct focus and expertise on navigation systems.

As such, the companies intend to draw on their respective technologies, including: HERE’s mapping infrastructure for autonomous cars, HD Live Map; HERE’s Open Location Platform; and Mitsubishi Electric’s precise positioning technology, High-Definition Locator, for data processing, location analytics and the creation of new services.

HERE and MELCO intend to enable services initially for automotive customers in North America and Europe, before making them available more broadly. The companies will also work together to define possible services that target other industries beyond the automotive market.

Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE Technologies, said in a statement: “Location technology is at the core of the digital transformation happening right now across every industry and this has been the starting point for some very productive discussions between HERE Technologies and Mitsubishi Electric. Each company has unique capabilities to bring to the partnership to shape the digital transformation and, together, we believe we can create tremendous value for our customers.

“While our initial focus will be on self-driving cars, over time we see our collaboration broadening as we explore powerful new services and business models for the emerging autonomous world,” Overbeek added.

Isao Iguchi, Mitsubishi Electric’s SVP , said: “Mitsubishi Electric is actively developing self- sensing driving technologies incorporating various peripheral-sensing technologies, and network- based driving technologies incorporating satellite system and high accuracy 3D mapping. We believe that our partnership with HERE Technologies will strengthen our global rollout of network- based technologies for extra-autonomous driving.”

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.

Over the past year, 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.

“Unlike onboard cameras and radars… maps can also ‘see around the corner,'” Overbeek said at this past year’s SxSW. “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,” Overbeek continued. “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.”