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According to the New York Times, Uber is rumoured to have put a bid for Here, Nokia’s mapping product. This is great news, not just for Uber but for the Uber user. Amongst its shortcomings, Uber’s mapping is shoddy at best. Often Uber drivers wonder off into the wild, heading in the wrong direction, when the pickup location had been clear and showed the right location on the user’s mobile device.
Going up against Uber though is a consortium including German carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi and Baidu, China’s biggest search engine. Facebook announced a partnership with Here but did not indicate any intentions to buy it. Since Here is up for sale and any partnerships with it could be ended when it has a new owner, it’s fairly safe to mark this particular one as suspicious. That said, BMW has also partnered with Here before.
While this means strong competition for Uber, many will hope that Uber wins it so it can be more accurate in its mapping.
Its inaccuracy is infamous amongst its drivers too. That much is evident in the number who ask where passengers are going to confirm the reading on their maps. This is surely unacceptable and downright sloppy. What Here possess is the preciseness that Uber needs. With Here, Uber can use pinpoint GPS. The mapping of Here is even better than Google Maps. Google Maps might offer one fancy features, what one needs from a map is exactly what maps are for, mapping. Here, with its voice guide and offline capabilities, has an advantage over other mapping services.
The New York Times cited three anonymous sources that confirmed that Uber is prepared to buy Here for as much as $3 billion. Late last year, we reported that Uber had got US$1.2-billion investment, valuing the company at US$40-billion. Uber is currently available in 570 countries.
Nokia decided to sell Here to finance its US$16.6-billion share purchase of Alcatel-Lucent. Unlike Nokia’s mobile devices, which were left behind by innovation, Here remains amongst the best in the mapping industry.
For now Uber uses Google Maps technology for its mapping. The purchase of Here makes perfect sense. Not only will this aide Uber in with Uber rides but with UberEATS, the on-demand meal delivery service, UberPool, ride sharing service, and UberCargo, a cargo delivery service it tested in Hong Kong.
The on-demand car service also has history in the mapping space, having previously acquired deCarta, a mapping software company. Adding Here to their purchases would give it more ways to mine its users mapping data to get a better sense of its business.
While this is only a rumour for now, the potential Here purchase throws up plenty of questions. Will Uber, for example, incorporate it into its app and kill it as a standalone app?
What may be best however is if Uber can embed its app inside the Here app. Keep Here the way it is but add an Uber option to Here’s transport options and can redirect one to Uber once they choose to travel by Uber. Here also has capabilities to map inside malls, giving Uber to plenty to play with.
The unfortunate news that Here is faced with is that whoever ends buying it might want to use it only for themselves thus terribly limiting its capabilities which is its use across multiple industries as Nokia has been using it.