HERE – Pole position.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

HERE is closing the gap to Google with the Chinese and Intel joining up. 

  • HERE gets one over on Google by filling the biggest hole in its portfolio with the formation of a strategic partnership with NavInfo to provide maps and services into the Chinese market.
  • It has also announced a key partnership with Tencent which, together with GIC (Singapore sovereign wealth fund) and NavInfo, will become 10% shareholders in HERE.
  • HERE has also announced that Intel will become a 15% shareholder
  • Details include:
    • First: a 50/50 joint venture with NavInfo to supply maps and services into mainland China.
    • I see this relationship as NavInfo having the data and HERE having the software and services to bring it to life in the Chinese market.
    • This will begin with the HERE Auto SDK for in car services and then continuing into HD maps, autonomous driving and advanced location based services.
    • I suspect that foreign car makers selling their models in China will be the first customers but it to be successful the local makers need to also be won over.
    • This is a major challenge to Baidu which uses NavInfo data in its map which has helped it to become by far the leader at home in all things to do with location.
    • It is also a big challenge to Alibaba which owns AutoNavi, the mapping company that supplies much of the Chinese auto industry as well as its map of China to Google.
    • Second: Tencent looks set to use HERE’s location platform and its map in all areas of its ecosystem both in and outside of China.
    • This is HERE’s second win of a major ecosystem which, combined with Facebook, gives it the world’s two largest ecosystems by number of users.
    • However, both of these ecosystems are very immature but should they successfully execute their strategies, then HERE will find itself as the leading provider of location globally.
    • Third: NavInfo, Tencent and GIC will jointly acquire a 10% stake in HERE with the three existing shareholders (Audi, BMW and Daimler) correspondingly reducing their shareholdings.
    • Fourth: HERE will work with Intel to ensure that all of HERE’s systems are optimised to run on Intel’s chips which should provide Intel with a good boost to getting its silicon more deeply embedded in the car.
    • Having Intel as a shareholder will provide HERE with a big boost to its credibility in its objective to become the pre-eminent supplier of global location.
  • These announcements are a major step forward for HERE as it has fixed its previously blank spot in China as well as added another major ecosystem and the global silicon leader to its stable.
  • Furthermore, this will increase and enrich the data that is available to HERE to train its algorithms which should help it to make its services smarter and richer than those of its competitors.
  • This will also help HERE close the gap on Google which has an excellent map in China (from Autonavi) but which is effectively useless as it does not work when the user is in China without a VPN.
  • I suspect that data from Tencent and NavInfo will be used to create points of interest, thereby enriching the Chinese map.
  • This is an area where HERE has really struggled to keep up with Google historically.
  • I see the risk of the China transaction lying in the regulatory approvals.
  • Both the j.v. with NavInfo and the co-operation with Tencent require Chinese regulatory approval which may not be as straightforward as it would seem.
  • This is because HERE is a foreign company whose venture with NavInfo is a significant challenge to two of the homegrown ecosystems Baidu and Alibaba.
  • China has a history of making it difficult for non-Chinese companies to compete in its home market where the foreign company threatens to take share from locals.
  • The one exception is Apple, but I have long believed that Apple has succeeded in China by taking share from Samsung rather than any of the local companies and hence it has represented no real threat.
  • Hence, I think that HERE needs to tread carefully and show that in China, it is its local partners (Tencent and NavInfo) that will derive the most benefit from working with HERE.
  • Should these announcements win regulatory approval then HERE will have filled the biggest hole in its global coverage as well as moved into pole position to become the biggest supplier of global location to the digital ecosystems.
  • Just Japan remains as a blank spot.

 

Ola. vs. Uber – Welfare state.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

I suspect Ola will need state intervention to survive. 

  • Ola looks to have become desperate as it appears to be pursuing a new round of funding at a valuation 40% below where it raised money just one year ago.
  • This is just yet another sign of the malaise that has hit the Indian start-up arena as Flipkart has already run into difficulties resulting in lay-offs and management change and funding for Indian start-ups is down 50% compared to the first 3 quarters of 2015.
  • This echoes exactly what happened in Silicon Valley during 2015 where much more attention was put on profitability and valuation after a series of so-called unicorns failed to execute on their plans.
  • I think there is still plenty of money available for investing in India but it is now much more difficult to get one’s hands on it and founders will end up having to give more of their companies away.
  • Furthermore, I think the departure of Nikesh Arora from Softbank has caused it to be far more passive in the region which has also had a knock-on effect on valuations.
  • On top of this, Ola’s operational outlook is looking increasingly difficult because it no longer has a significant advantage in the Indian market.
  • Car hailing is one of the best examples of a networked economy and just like classifieds it is extremely difficult to make money until one of two criteria are met:
    • First: one must has at least 60% market share or
    • Second: one must have double the market share of the next largest player.
  • Earlier this year it was thought that Ola had 80% market share but when one looks at completed rides, it turns out this number is closer to 50%.
  • To make matters worse, its chief rival Uber has roughly the same position meaning that two are likely to fight it out until one cracks.
  • In the Chinese market it was Uber that cracked as it became clear that it would never be able to compete on a level playing field with Didi Kuadi (see here) but in India things are different.
  • The problem that Ola faces is that Uber is much larger and better financed meaning that it will be able to compete aggressively and lose money until Ola goes out of business.
  • Consequently, unless the regulatory landscape shifts more in favour of the local player (as in China), it looks like Ola will end up selling itself to Uber.
  • Car hailing, like food delivery and all other online market places are winner takes all markets and there are no prizes for second place.
  • As I result, I remain concerned with the long-term outlook for Ola and I would be very cautious at putting money in even at $3bn.
  • If nothing changes, Ola is likely to end up being worth far less than that.

Samsung – Empty horse

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

There are no Greeks hiding in the wooden horse of Harman. 

  • Samsung’s acquisition of Harman is about increasing its penetration of the automobile rather than offering a sneaky challenge to the car industry.
  • Samsung has announced that it will acquire 100% of Harman International Industries for KRW9.3bn / US$8.02bn in cash with the deal expected to close in Q3 2017.
  • Harman is a well-known Tier 1 automotive components supplier with 65% of its $7bn in revenues coming from the automotive industry.
  • Its particular area of strength is in audio, electronics and infotainment systems which are already present in 30m vehicles worldwide.
  • I see this deal benefiting Samsung in two ways.
    • First – Verticalisation. Samsung will have more internal demand for its components as well as a large, new in-house customer for its foundry, Samsung LSI.
    • Furthermore, there will be an opportunity for improved integration between hardware and software which should improve the performance of Harman’s products.
    • Second – Customer access. Harman has strong relationships with almost every car maker which will give Samsung an avenue through which to sell its other products such as semiconductors and displays to the automotive industry.
  • I do not think for one minute that acquisition is about Samsung building its own car or about Samsung extending its own digital ecosystem into the car.
  • Consequently, I do not see this deal as threatening for the automotive industry but it is a threat for suppliers of Harman who now may lose out to the in-house supplier and to Harman’s competitors who may have a tougher time going forward.
  • Apple’s realignment of its automotive experiment (see here) is a strong indication of how it is not a good idea for a tech company to start making cars and I do not think that Samsung ever had any intention of following Apple down this road.
  • Most importantly, Samsung does not represent the same threat to automotive brands that Apple and Google do, as it long ago gave up trying to compete in the ecosystem.
  • This means that Samsung will not be intending to ensure that its services (perhaps with the exception of Viv (see here)) and its brand are front and centre in automotive infotainment units and it will not be extracting any data.
  • Consequently, I think Samsung simply aims to extend its strategy of selling electronics at huge scale and thereby earning a much better return than its competitors.
  • This deal positions it well to meaningfully increase its penetration in the automobile as it becomes increasingly driven by electronics and increasingly autonomous.
  • Samsung has realised that software and services is difficult and with every move that Samsung makes I see it increasingly leaving this piece to others such as Google.
  • Hence, I think the automakers can rest more easily when it comes to Samsung and continue to put their attention on ensuring that Apple and Google do not steal the relationship they are trying to build with the end customer.

LeEco – Thin ice.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

I think financial thin ice will force LeEco out of automotive. 

  • LeEco has hit a major stumbling block meaning that something has to change to prevent what could become a disastrous unravelling of its financial structure.
  • I think that this will force it to refine its strategy resulting in the ending of its ambitions in automotive.
  • LeEco’s founder, Jia Yueting, has spent 6 years and something like $5bn in building a company that wants to be Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Tesla all rolled into one.
  • The problem is that only the Netflix-like business (mainland China video streaming) is profitable meaning that everything else, including a huge expansion into Silicon Valley, is burning cash.
  • This has been financed by a series of collateralised loans where Jia Yueting has pledged his shares in LeEco in exchange for cash which he has then lent to LeEco.
  • LeEco is listed as Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corporation in Shenzhen meaning that its share price is hostage to the fortunes of the regular market.
  • Consequently, if sentiment sours and the share price goes below a certain level, there will be margin calls on the loan which are very likely to result in the sale of shares to meet these commitments.
  • These sorts of situations often result in a death spiral where share sales to meet margin calls result in a lower share price and more margin calls and so on.
  • Leshi shares have not performed well at all this year with the shares down some 30% from where they were in June 2016 and at the end of 2015.
  • Given that the collateralised loans were struck towards the end of 2015, I suspect that the current share price is uncomfortably close to the kind of levels that would prompt these margin calls.
  • I think that this is why Jia Yueting has written to his employees admitting that the company is over stretched and warning them that the cash will be more carefully invested going forward.
  • LeEco has struck some big deals this year including $2bn to buy Vizio, $1.8bn to build a connected car factory in China as well as $250m to buy 40 acres of Silicon Valley real estate from Yahoo.
  • To add insult to injury LeEco has failed to hit fund raising targets for its Chinese limo hailing service Yidao Yongsche.
  • I suspect that this has everything to do with the merger of Didi and Uber in China creating one huge giant and few minnows.
  • Ride hailing is a winner takes all market, and Yidao is now a tiny minnow in the Chinese market meaning that its chances of success are now very small which looks to have been reflected in the lack of investor interest.
  • Taking all of LeEco’s operations into consideration, I think that if it jettisoned all of its automotive ambitions (Faraday Future, Chinese connected cars and Yidao), the company would be in a much better position to compete.
  • Its other assets such as media consumption, TVs, phones fit together much more effectively and there are well documented synergies to be had from owning both the hardware and the software in the ecosystem.
  • LeEco’s automotive ambitions have always looked like an annex to the core business and it is increasingly clear that they stand to be a huge drain on resources.
  • The Faraday Future plant in Nevada and the Chinese factory have not yet broken ground meaning that the automotive ambitions can be quietly mothballed without too much fuss.
  • I see Jia Yueting as having little alternative as LeEco is skating on financial thin ice and there is a death spiral of margin calls and forced share sales right underneath if it breaks.
  • Furthermore, with a clear strategy to differentiate its offering in USA on price (see here), it is going to need every cent it has to finance its ambitions and grow its digital consumer ecosystem.
  • Hence, I suspect that the automotive ambitions will be reluctantly curtailed which I think gives LeEco its best chance of success in its other endeavours.

HERE – Data odyssey.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

Car makers sharing data is the real story. 

  • HERE has begun its strategy to increasingly automate and imrpove transport but the most impressive feature so far is the fact that the 3 owners of HERE are sharing their data with each other.
  • Far more data than has been historically available is being used to create 4 new services that should be deeper, richer and more useful than any that have gone before.
  • These are:
    • First: HERE real-time traffic.
    • This takes probe data that typically provides traffic information and combines it with sensor data such as braking to provide more detail with regards to what is really happening on the road.
    • Using data from BMW, Audi and Daimler cars will reveal more information such as when some lanes are blocked while others are moving to give the driver better information upon which to base decisions.
    • Second: HERE Hazard Warnings.
    • This uses data from sensors such as impact, brakes and cameras to allow the driver to anticipate hazards rather than be forced to react to them.
    • Third: HERE Road signs.
    • This uses vehicle cameras to detect temporary and permanent changes to street signs that can improve assisted driving systems as well as warn the driver with regard to road changes and hazards.
    • Fourth: HERE On-Street parking.
    • This uses predicative statistics as well as data from the ignition to estimate where parking is most likely to be available and for how long the driver can expect to spend looking for parking.
  • These services are the first step in an odyssey to create fully autonomous driving but I think that the real story here is that they all use shared data from competing car makers.
  • Given that only a small percentage of cars on the road are connected, the initial appeal of these services will be small at first but it is the intent that they signal that is so significant.
  • This is the first time that car makers have allowed what they consider to be highly proprietary information to be shared with their competitors.
  • This is crucial because the opportunity created by sharing this kind of data is much greater for all involved but getting old fashioned companies to embrace this concept has been a real struggle.
  • As more companies sign up and agree to share their anonymised data the opportunity for everybody involved will continue to rapidly increase.
  • Furthermore, HERE and its partners will have exclusive access to this data giving them insights that neither Apple or Google will be able to replicate.
  • This 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.
  • I have had concerns with regards to data sharing within the HERE consortium (see here) and this announcement goes quite some way to alleviating that concern.
  • If HERE can also make its partners feel that all stakeholders are being fairly treated then it will have really improved its chances of creating a location platform with long term differentiation.
  • Google Maps faces none of these problems as users of Google Maps tend to agree to share their data with Google and there is only one stake holder in the operation.
  • This is why it is essential that the car makers prevent Google from sucking out all their data through Android Auto because this would really damage their (and HERE’s) long term differentiation.
  • HERE has an opportunity to be every bit as good (or even better) than Google Maps but success depends on openness, trust and commitment between its owners and partners.
  • So far, HERE is doing well at fostering all of these attributes and I see its chances of success continuing to improve.

Chinese Autos – Handsets on wheels.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese automakers give away a crown jewel. 

  • The willingness of the Chinese automakers to give away digital differentiation to the BATmen (see here) clearly indicates they do not understand how important digital will probably become.
  • SAIC was the first to move (see here) in launching a car with the entire head unit powered by Yun OS (Alibaba) while eight other companies including BYD and Chiang are already intending to use Baidu’s CarLife.
  • The multinationals are also getting in on the act with Audi recently signing a deal with all three of the BATmen to add their services to the cars that it ships in China.
  • I am pretty certain that others will follow.
  • From a digital perspective, it makes no sense whatsoever for the foreign car companies to try and create digital experiences for their Chinese customers.
  • This is because like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and so on the environment will make it almost impossible for them to succeed especially where their services compete against those of Chinese companies.
  • However, the Chinese car companies have no such limitation.
  • Hence, they are potentially giving away one of the big long-term differentiators and I am far from convinced that they have any understanding of the implications of what they are doing.
  • Fast forward 15 years to a world where autonomous vehicles are everywhere, it will be the brains of the vehicle that largely differentiates it from its competitors.
  • If the brains of that vehicle come from one of the BATmen then all vehicles will have access to those brains as it is in the BATmen’s interest to ensure as wide a distribution of their services as possible.
  • This could leave the Chinese car makers as commodities with all of the value accruing to the ecosystem owners, just as it does in the handset industry.
  • This just one facet of a huge problem that I see in China.
  • Outside of the internet industry, there is precious little understanding of how important software and services are becoming and so very little is being done to effectively combat commoditisation.
  • Many Chinese companies believe that they will be able to differentiate in hardware but the example of Android shows that any hardware innovation is rapidly copied failing to alleviate the problem.
  • There are a few exceptions to this but unless Chinese device makers really begin to internalise the importance of the user experience, a very bleak future awaits them.
  • This is how many industries in China remain wide open to the BATmen as the existing players have very little understanding of the threat that the BATmen represent to their long term livelihoods.
  • Consequently, in China Baidu and Tencent are the only place where I would feel comfortable for the long term.

Apple Auto – Titanic shift

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

Project Titan suddenly looks more sensible. 

  • I think that the scaling back of Apple’s ambitions to produce an electric car heralds the realisation that making a car is much more difficult than it sounds and that a vehicle was never going to work for Apple financially.
  • The change of guard at Project Titan earlier this year appears to have gone hand in hand with a change in strategy that has resulted in around 50 people leaving the project.
  • I understand that the focus is no longer to produce a vehicle but to focus on some of the underlying systems as well as autonomous driving.
  • I think that this means that Apple will work on two areas.
    • First: Infotainment.
    • I have long been of the opinion that an in-car infotainment system makes much more sense for Apple than to make the entire vehicle (see here).
    • This is because the infotainment unit is where the car will intersect with all of Apple’s other products and where Apple’s key strengths are by far the most relevant.
    • Furthermore, Apple might just be able to make 40% gross margins on the infotainment unit whereas it will be almost impossible to show this kind of profitability on brake pads, wheels, pressed aluminium and so on.
    • Failure to produce a product with high gross margins is likely to have very serious implications for Apple’s already lowly valuation.
    • This why I still believe that if Apple is going to launch any hardware for the auto, it will be an infotainment unit.
    • The problem with this strategy is that, Apple will have to get the automakers to play along, all of whom, have become increasingly wary with regards to Apple and especially Google over the last 9 months.
    • Second: Autonomous driving
    • While this is a hotbed of investment at the moment, I struggle to see why Apple should be a leader in this field.
    • RFM research indicates that a successful autonomous driving offering is likely to require a combination of skills and assets.
    • These are: a very high quality map, many millions of miles driven and first class artificial intelligence to control the vehicle.
    • Combine this with the huge issues I see with the regulatory environment (see here) as well as liability (see here)and I think it will be a very long time indeed before this is in the mass market.
    • Furthermore, I do not see Apple as a leader in any of these skills, leaving Google way out front with Baidu leading in China.
    • Uber, HERE and most of the auto makers are all working on this but I suspect that it will be Google that gets there first.
  • Consequently, from a pragmatic standpoint, the likelihood of Project Titan reviving Apple’s growth sometime in the next 5 years looks to be extremely remote which is what I suspect prompted this rethink.
  • This leaves the dilemma for Apple unchanged in that there is nothing on the horizon likely to restore growth in the short to medium term.
  • For long-term value investors, I continue to think that there is substantial value to be had in Apple shares but for the short-term I continue to prefer Microsoft, Baidu and Samsung.

Uber – Time to print

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

The time to make money has arrived. 

  • In the last few weeks Uber’s position in the transportation industry has crystallised meaningfully, meaning that the time for it to make money is here.
  • One large scale loss (China (see here)) is complimented by its dominance in almost the entirety of the developed world which is where the vast majority of the revenues are likely to be earned.
  • Data from Similar Web using Android installs as an indicator, finds that in North America, most of Europe and South America, Australasia and parts of Africa, Uber is the dominant ride hailing service.
  • In North America, Uber is installed on 21.3% of Android devices.
  • This may not be that impressive but what really matters is that it is 8x greater than its nearest rival Lyft which is on just 2.6% of Android devices.
  • Uber, just like all the digital ecosystems, is a network based business where the economics are governed by one’s size relative one’s competitors.
  • The rule of thumb that I use is that to hit critical mass a network based business has to have at least 60% share of the market in which it operates or be at least twice the size of its nearest competitor.
  • This data is showing that in most of the markets in which it operates, Uber is already there which explains why Lyft is trying to sell itself and why Uber is able to treat it with some disdain.
  • China was a big loss (see here) but now that Uber has given up trying to compete in China, the focus should now turn to justifying the $62.5bn valuation that its most recent investors have paid.
  • Out of the 171 markets that Similar Web looked at, Uber dominates 108 of them and with almost all the valuable territories now covered, the customer acquisition phase now appears complete.
  • Furthermore, Uber is now the go to place to get a taxi or to offer one’s services as a driver, meaning that the vast sums of money that have spent to get there have not been wasted.
  • For all network based businesses this is the Holy Grail because once this position has been achieved, it is possible to earn vast sums of money and it is very difficult to be disrupted.
  • The persistence of Craigslist in the US is a great example as it has proven impossible to displace even though it offers a very poor user experience.
  • Hence, I am now looking for the focus at Uber to turn to making serious money, meaning that an IPO is probably not that far off (1-2 years).
  • Consequently, I will take a dim view of further raises as with proper execution, Uber should now become a hugely cash generative enterprise meaning that further growth should be easily internally financed.
  • The big question now is: is partial world domination enough for management?
  • From the investor’s perspective, I hope that it is.

LeEco – Join the dots

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

LeEco looks more like Samsung than Apple. 

  • LeEco is rapidly assembling the pieces that it needs to create a global digital ecosystem, but it will only become a thriving ecosystem when all the pieces work together seamlessly.
  • LeEco is a new player in the ecosystem space which finds it roots in its video streaming service for which it has around 42m active users.
  • This is very small compared to Alibaba’s online video service Youku Tudou, but LeEco is aggressively expanding into the other areas of the digital ecosystem in order to increase its appeal to users.
  • Last week it continued this expansion by agreeing to pay $2bn to acquire Vizio, adding smart TVs, speakers and home entertainment to its already wide-spread portfolio of smartphones, electric cars (Faraday Future), sports streaming, virtual reality and real estate.
  • It also recently spent $250m in June to purchase 49 acres of Santa Clara real estate from Yahoo.
  • LeEco used to be called LeTv but renamed itself LeEco (Le Ecosystem) as a statement of intent of how it aims to grow to become a global player in consumer electronics and services.
  • However, both at home and overseas it faces fearsome competition but if it is nimble, there is space for it to carve out a niche for itself.
  • LeEco is aggressively expanding in North America but it is going to have to compete on two fronts to make it globally.
  • This is because RFM research has found that the Chinese ecosystems are very different and incompatible with the ecosystems being built for developed markets.
  • This is where the issues begin as ecosystems are fundamentally based upon Digital Life services and when LeEco is assessed on this, it fares badly.
  • In terms of Digital Life services, LeEco has media consumption but it is not a leader in its home market and it has nothing overseas.
  • This leaves LeEco looking more like Samsung than it does Apple and in that regard volume is going to be critical unless it can differentiate its products through software and services.
  • This is why LeEco must join the dots between its different product offerings and make them work seamlessly together.
  • If it can achieve that then owners of a Vizio TV will find value in also owning a LeEco smartphone or even a Faraday Future car.
  • That is how LeEco may begin to earn user preference which in consumer electronics is the secret to making good margins.
  • I think it will be difficult for LeEco to differentiate in Digital Life services unless there is a major breakdown at Google or the BATmen leaving cross-device as its best opportunity for success.
  • This means that it will have to stitch all of these experiences together in an easy and fun to use way such that users like and hence, actively choose.
  • This is all about software and cross device synchronisation is very difficult and Apple, Google and many others are still struggling to get it right.
  • This creates an opportunity, but also a challenge, leaving me thinking that LeEco needs to sit back and take stock of its hastily assembled portfolio and decide what it is going to do with it before continuing its rush into the ecosystem.
  • I see no immediate threat to the BATmen, none of whom are yet really competing in consumer devices but I see the time coming when hardware is an important part of competing in the China.
  • Consequently, there may be scope for an alliance between LeEco and one of the BATmen in the near future but overseas LeEco looks like it will be going it alone.
  • I continue to prefer Baidu, Microsoft and Samsung for the immediate term with Tencent and Facebook on my watch list for the right signals to enter.

Uber – Wheel re-invention.

Reply to this post

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

HERE offers much more for $500m. 

  • I think that $500m would be much better spent in becoming a meaningful shareholder of HERE and getting a leading seat at the table of the only independent game in town.
  • It appears that Uber intends to invest $500m in creating its own map in order to remove its dependency on Google, a company looks set to be its competitor one day.
  • As Uber’s business stands today, Google is not really a threat as its maps are really only used for passenger location and routing but when autonomous vehicles become a reality, it will be a different story.
  • Uber has already assembled some mapping assets having acquired deCarta, a turn by turn directions company, as well as some assets from Microsoft and personnel from Google.
  • The problem as I see it is that throwing just $500m at building map is very unlikely to produce the desired results.
  • If Uber was to spend $600m per year for 6 years and utilize the services of 6,000 people, then it would probably come up with an asset as good as Google’s.
  • However, it would have carry on spending this amount every year and quite possibly more (see below) just to keep its head above water
  • Given my bearish view on the timing of autonomous vehicles (see here), I think Uber has the time but I am far from convinced that reinventing the wheel is a very good use of its resources.
  • The general consensus is that autonomous vehicles require a very high quality map, which given Uber’s presence in 60 countries, it is going to have to cover them all.
  • Furthermore, simply covering the cities will not be enough, Uber will have to have this level of quality everywhere if it wants to offer a fully-fledged autonomous ride hailing service.
  • HERE and Google are only just embarking on this now and I think that Uber may end up having to invest even more than $600m a year if it wants to keep up.
  • With Google becoming a competitor for much of the technology industry, many technology companies have already switched to using the HERE map and I think this trend will continue.
  • Google is also emerging as a competitor for the automotive industry which is pushing HERE to become a coalition of all Google’s competitors.
  • HERE has to tread very carefully to ensure it remains independent and that everyone is fairly treated (see here) but I see that some of the initial hurdles of competitors sharing anonymous data have already been overcome.
  • Hence, I think that Uber joining the HERE consortium would be mutually beneficial as Uber would have a first rate map from day 1 while the consortium would benefit from Uber’s rich data set.
  • I am sure the conversations are already happening.