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HERE to tap big data for 'map of the future'

The Berlin-based map maker has announced its blueprint of the future: a real-time, location-based technology that will steer self-driving cars and provide a 'second-by-second view' of our cities.

The ink is barely dry, but already the Big Three of the German auto industry have announced the next chapter of their joint venture.

Audi, BMW and Daimler, which finalized the acquisition of Nokia's mapping technology HERE just three days ago, on Monday lifted the veil on what they call the "map for the future."

By tapping the power of big data, the German car consortium said its new service will provide "intelligent real-time maps" that will not only feed users information based on their location, but that will also help drive a new generation of autonomous vehicles.

HERE's maps are currently fuelled by data from "more than 80,000 sources" and "enriched by billions of probe points" every day, according to the division's

own blog

. Adding data from the trio's more than two million connected vehicles would drastically accelerate the location-based technology.

"The map is evolving into a live representation of the world, giving us a second-by-second view of our cities and road networks," HERE President Sean Fernback said in the blog post. "Now we have the backing of three automotive companies which share our view that this map will be life-changing for people: it will power location services that improve mobility for people and enterprises, make driving safer and more enjoyable, and reduce emissions."

Watch video 05:41

A Future of Driverless Cars

Wide-ranging autonomy

The three German auto titans teamed up in August to buy the Berlin-based company, formerly known as Navteq, jointly paying 2.55 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for separate but equal stakes.

“No one understands the potential of digital maps better than the HERE team with its 6,500 employees worldwide. The shareholders will therefore give HERE free rein in accelerating its growth strategy,” Audi's chairman Rupert Stadler said at the announcement in Berlin on Monday.

“HERE has again and again redefined the map over the last 30 years. It is our expectation that it will continue to lead the industry in its next phase of innovation, thereby creating further value.”

The German buyers added that the map-maker will retain a large degree of autonomy, even allowing the firm to do business with rival carmakers. HERE's Fernback said that he is also still in talks with China's top online search company, Baidu, which had also looked into buying division from Nokia.

Opening up to third parties could give HERE, as well as its new buyers, an edge as they go up against other mapping giants, such as Google and TomTom. Google, for its part, has been a key driver of the autonomous-auto development, and is expected to roll out its own driverless car by 2020.

But more and more consumers and governments are growing increasingly wary of the bulk data collection needed to fuel the technology, following Edward Snowden's NSA leaks in 2013. HERE has therefore vowed that the data used for its maps will be anonymized.

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