THERE

Ingolstadt.

Ingolstadt.

Munich.

Stuttgart.

Those three municipalities are to Audi, BMW and Daimler what Detroit, Dearborn and Auburn Hills are to GM, Ford and FCA.

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Seeing the three in one dateline is remarkable.

Yet last Friday, there were the three companies making an announcement:

“AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG successfully concluded the acquisition of Nokia’s digital mapping and location business HERE. The three partners each hold an equal stake in HERE. All competent antitrust authorities approved the transaction.”

A couple days earlier, Nokia, once THE brand in cell phones, announced that its shareholders are backing its proposed acquisition of French network equipment provider Alcatel-Lucent. As for its handset business: Nokia sold that to Microsoft in April 2014.

Presumably, the $2.8-billion Nokia, a Finnish company, is receiving from the three German companies are going to be used in that bid.

HERE is company that provides software. Mapping software that can be used for vehicle navigation systems. Really good mapping software that can be used to create even accurate images of roadways, such as the picture being used here.

Audi, BMW and Daimler aren’t interested in creating competition for the likes of Waze or Inrix. Rather, they are interested in having a system that will help each of them create the means by which autonomous driving can be performed:

If you know the route and what the route looks like, then it is easier to guide your vehicle along that route.

Chances are, at least two of those three German companies could afford to buy HERE individually. (One of them has a parent company that is going to be paying for fixes and fines and lawsuits for some time to come, so its investment potential is somewhat, well, limited.)

So why are they together on this?

My bet is that they realize that if there is commonality between their products when it comes to autonomy, there is a greater uniformity and consequent predictable performance. Which is exactly what is going to help propel autonomous vehicles.

Will we see a Detroit, Dearborn Auburn Hills dateline anytime soon. While it is unlikely, it would also be beneficial were we to.