Nokia Bets $100 Million on Smart Car Tech

No longer selling smartphones, Nokia's gets dialed into supporting smart car startups

1 min read
Nokia Bets $100 Million on Smart Car Tech
A visitor tests a Nokia Oyj map application operated by the company's Here unit on Monday, 24 Feb., the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nokia launched a US $100 million venture fund today to invest in companies working on connected car technology. Nokia, which sold its mobile phone unit to Microsoft last week, is already a major presence in the car navigation sector. It provides four out of five car navigation systems, reports Bloomberg. Nokia's investment arm, Nokia Growth Partners, already manages other early-stage technology companies with a combined value of around US $600 million, according to the company's press release.

Connected cars is a catch-all industry term for cars that connect to the Internet. Some do it through their own hardware, while others allow their cars to interact with driver or passenger devices via Bluetooth or cables. Google and Apple, the biggest mobile software makers, both have car software or hardware offerings, reports the BBC.

The next step will be for cars to talk not just to the Internet, but to nearby cars for improved coordination. Cars can already combine multiple sources of sensor data to detect and respond to traffic conditions, for example (See "Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic-Jam Assistants," part of this month's IEEE Spectrum special report on self-driving cars). Passing such information to nearby cars, called Vehicle-to-Vehicle or V2V technology, could help prevent accidents or improve the flow of traffic. U.S. regulators will soon announce draft rules for that kind of technology.

Car manufacturers and third-party suppliers are both competing and cooperating to establish those standards. That will enable them all to move forward, and faster, to feed consumers' appetite for data in their cars. "Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption very similar to phones or tablets," said Paul Asel, a partner at Nokia Growth Partners, in Nokia's statement.


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Self-Driving Cars Work Better With Smart Roads

Intelligent infrastructure makes autonomous driving safer and less expensive

9 min read
A photograph shows a single car headed toward the viewer on the rightmost lane of a three-lane road that is bounded by grassy parkways, one side of which is planted with trees. In the foreground a black vertical pole is topped by a crossbeam bearing various instruments. 

This test unit, in a suburb of Shanghai, detects and tracks traffic merging from a side road onto a major road, using a camera, a lidar, a radar, a communication unit, and a computer.

Shaoshan Liu

Enormous efforts have been made in the past two decades to create a car that can use sensors and artificial intelligence to model its environment and plot a safe driving path. Yet even today the technology works well only in areas like campuses, which have limited roads to map and minimal traffic to master. It still can’t manage busy, unfamiliar, or unpredictable roads. For now, at least, there is only so much sensory power and intelligence that can go into a car.

To solve this problem, we must turn it around: We must put more of the smarts into the infrastructure—we must make the road smart.

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