(Adds comments from Nissan and Daimler executives, other
By Edward Taylor and Eric Auchard
PARIS/FRANKFURT, Sept 29 Alarmed by the threat
posed by Silicon Valley firms developing autonomous driving
systems, carmakers at this week's Paris Motor Show showed signs
they are ready to hit back by cooperating in areas where they
might have been expected to compete.
"This is how the automotive industry may be able to fight
off the threat that Apple and particularly Google
represent to their brands as digital services become
more and more important," technology investment analyst Richard
BMW, Daimler and VW's Audi
announced this week they would launch new traffic monitoring
services next year which give drivers a view of road conditions
miles ahead. They are based on video data collected from sensors
in other cars and fed to the three carmakers' jointly-owned
navigation mapping services firm HERE (reut.rs/2dabC1B).
Separately HERE's Dutch rival TomTom NV on
Thursday announced traffic data deals with truckmaker Volvo
and carmaker Skoda, a VW subsidiary.
Also General Motors, Nissan and VW are
experimenting with a plan to pull video data captured by their
customers' vehicles using Israeli firm Mobileye's
camera-based sensor systems, that may soon give automakers an
edge over the likes of Google in the precision-mapping required
for driverless cars (reut.rs/2daj3Wr).
However, it remains to be seen whether carmakers can charge
premium prices for connected car services as technology
companies like Google look to develop similar offerings for
free, supported by advertising or other business models.
A deal by traffic data start-up Inrix to supply data to
Google-owned crowd-sourced traffic and navigation service Waze
will help drivers find parking spots on smartphones using the
free app. And Renault said on Thursday it was showing
a prototype of a Waze system built into its car dashboards which
run Android Auto, Google's operating system for carmakers.
Meanwhile connecting cars on the move with the Internet also
needs more reliable mobile telecoms networks. With that aim,
Germany's top automakers said this week they were teaming up
with telecoms network equipment makers Ericsson,
Huawei, Nokia, Qualcomm and Intel
to help with developing the next-generation 5G networks
set to debut around 2020 (reut.rs/2dcPuCy).
At the same time carmakers are now racing to plot their
courses to building self-driving vehicles over the next five
years, a dramatic acceleration in pace from the 10- to 15-year
timeframes many had charted until pushed to speed up the process
by the advances made by Google and Tesla.
"We see the car transforming from a product into the
ultimate platform," Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche told
reporters in Paris.
Among the car companies there have been two camps, those who
are trying to develop their autonomous driving technology
in-house, and those who are outsourcing it, but that division is
looking set to become less clear-cut due to the need for
cooperation in some areas at least.
"Gradually all of the car manufacturers will have to get
more and more involved in managing data. It's natural. We're
going to have to work much more collaboratively," Stewart
Callegari, a Nissan product planning executive for driverless
cars told reporters at the Paris show.
Fiat's recent partnership to build self-driving vans with
Google is seen by analysts as an example of outsourcing, given
the Italian auto maker's weak finances, limiting its ability to
invest in its own software expertise (reut.rs/1ZatE2c).
Daimler, on the other hand, is firmly in the camp of vehicle
makers who want to go it alone but still sees some need for
"We need to think whether we work together analysing the
data or whether we do this on our own. This depends on the use
case," Zetsche said, adding that it made sense to work together
in areas where potential cost savings resulted but did not blur
the distinctions between brands.
Some partnerships like the deal between Chinese carmaker
Geely's Swedish subsidiary Volvo Car Group to develop
autonomous cars with Uber Technologies, and General
Motor's partnership with Uber's rival Lyft, are also seen as
"The automotive industry has and will continue to become a
software business in many ways," Audi of America President Scott
Keogh told Reuters.
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Andreas Cremer and Laurence
Frost in Paris; Editing by Greg Mahlich)