TOKYO -- Here, the digital mapping company owned by major German automakers, is turning to a partnership with a Japanese sensor maker to expand high-definition mapping services aimed at self-driving cars, a Here executive said.
Here says it will cooperate in global mapping and location-based data services with Japan's Pioneer Corp. and digital map company Increment P Corp., a fully-owned subsidiary of Pioneer.
Here and Increment P are looking to use the data collected through Pioneer's 3D-LiDAR sensors to develop high-definition mapping solutions for autonomous driving.
Here's search for potential partners comes as Japanese automakers move away from in-house mapping businesses and launch their own Japan-centered coalition as a possible Here rival.
Here is a rapidly evolving automotive technology supplier, acquired by automakers in 2015 to take advantage of the shift to autonomous driving in global markets. Advanced digital mapping that automatically updates to changes in the environment is seen as a building-block technology for autonomous driving.
Through the new Pioneer partnership, Here aims to use cloud computing to apply data exchanges among vehicle sensors to help make autonomous driving safer with more accurate, constantly updating maps.
At a Feb. 23 briefing in Tokyo, Mandali Khalesi, the head of Here's Asia-Pacific automotive operations said the partnership will target highly automated driving applications that might be ready in the next couple of years, rather than fully self-driving technologies.
Khalesi said those applications have "more immediate opportunity."
"We'd like to develop our products as a leading solution for self-driving cars," Khalesi said, adding that automakers are rapidly expanding into the field.
Khalesi said Here is open to working with other partners, and also open to having a Japanese car manufacturer as an investor alongside its current German owners. The company is owned by a consortium of German automakers -- Audi, BMW and Daimler.
While the founding German auto-makers might further reduce their ownership stakes, Khalesi said, that is only one possible scenario and nothing is decided.
In January, Here announced the automakers would give up 10 percent ownership to bring in three new investors to help it reach into the China market -- the Chinese mapping company NavInfo, the Chinese Internet service Tencent, and GIC Private Ltd., a Singapore investment group.
That plan is still pending.