A Nokia deal to sell its HERE navigation business to a consortium of German car makers for between €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) and €3 billion is likely to move forward if the parties can agree on who would own key HERE patents following the sale.
Sources told Reuters the details of ownership of patents relating to technology that enables autonomous vehicles to communicate with mobile networks are pivotal to the agreement between Nokia and a consortium comprising BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes parent Daimler, told the news agency that the auto makers are exploring the acquisition to enable them to beef up anti-hacking software amid growing concerns over the safety of connected cars.
The auto makers would seek to embed security features into HERE software and make the platform available to competitors, Zetsche said.
Concerns over vehicle security appear well founded. Reuters cited a recent example where cyber security researchers remotely turned a car's engine off, while Wired senior reporter Andy Greenberg this week published an article recounting his experience of driving a Jeep that was hacked while on the move.
Although Greenberg volunteered for the test, it resulted in a nervous moment when the vehicle's engine was cut on a busy U.S. highway. The hackers also remotely operated the vehicle's air conditioning, entertainment system and windscreen wipers in a test that highlights the potential threat of hacking to 'connected' cars.
Zetsche admitted that concerns over hack attacks on Mercedes-Benz cars was a strong motivator in the company's bid to acquire HERE, telling Reuters that the consortium is keen to take control over the platform that enables self-driving cars.
Analysts from Morgan Stanley told the news agency that security will become an increasingly important element in vehicles as the level of automation increases. The analysts predicted the value of software and related content in an average car will grow from under 10 per cent currently to around 60 per cent over the next 15 years.
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