(Removes repetitious phrasing in paragraphs 14, 15)
By Edward Taylor and Eric Auchard
PARIS/FRANKFURT, Sept 29 Alarmed by the threat
posed by Silicon Valley firms to their businesses in developing
autonomous driving systems, it was evident at the Paris Motor
Show this week that carmakers are seeking to fight back by
cooperating in areas of technology development where previously
they might have tried to compete.
Three big carmakers - BMW, Daimler and
VW's Audi - announced earlier this week they would
launch new traffic monitoring services next year which give
drivers a view of road conditions along their entire route,
based on video data collected by their jointly-owned navigation
mapping services firm HERE from sensors incorporated in other
Meanwhile HERE's Dutch rival TomTom NV, on
Thursday announced traffic data deals for truckmaker Volvo
and carmaker Skoda, a VW subsidiary.
Connecting cars on the move with the Internet also needs
more reliable mobile telecoms networks and towards that end
Germany's top automakers said this week they were teaming up
with the 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).
It's unfamiliar territory for carmakers who are unaccustomed
to cooperating as they battle for distinctive features that will
help drive sales of their latest model vehicles.
"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
Moreover, carmakers are now racing one another to plot their
paths to building self-driving vehicles over the next five
That's a dramatic acceleration 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 said.
Now General Motors, Nissan and VW are also
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 Google-owned
crowd-sourced mapping unit Waze with its data will help drivers
find parking spots on their smartphones via a free app.
And on Thursday Renault said it was working with
Waze on a Google Android Auto protoype for a navigation app that
besides showing traffic conditions will also identify 13,000
electric car-charging stations across France.
Some in the industry are also warning that the move to
developing fully autonomous driving should remain a very gradual
one. Earlier this month pioneering electric car maker Tesla was
accused by Mobileye of "pushing the envelope in terms of
safety", alleging that it had promoted its Autopilot driver
assistance system as "hands-free" (reut.rs/2d5lUiG).
Other carmakers, while reluctant to address the dispute
directly, are keen to emphasise the need for a cautious
"There can be no compromise on safety, which is absolutely
crucial - that is why at PSA we've always believed autonomy will
happen in incremental steps," PSA Chief Executive Carlos Tavares
said in an interview published earlier this month.
"This is not the case for certain competitors who have tried
to produce a fully autonomous vehicle right away."
Among car companies there are two camps: Those who are
trying to develop their autonomous driving technology in-house,
and those who are outsourcing it.
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 those
auto makers who want to go it alone.
Some partnerships like the deal between Chinese carmaker
Geely's Swedish subsidiary Volvo Car Group's deal to
develop autonomous cars with Uber Technologies, and
General Motor's partnership with Uber's rival Lyft, are seen as
hybrid approaches to such cooperation.
"The automotive industry has and will continue to become a
software business in many ways," Audi of America President Scott
Keogh told Reuters.
"We are either capable of doing it in-house or we are going
to all the partners that we need to go to, whether it's Nvidia
, Mobileye or HERE."
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)