Just like billionaire Elon Musk and Google Inc. before them, Nokia is planning to spend $100 million to back companies that develop intelligent-car technologies.
The investments will come from a new fund Nokia is expected to announce Monday at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. The money is earmarked for Nokia’s mobile-technology company’s digital-maps business and will be run by Nokia’s venture-capital arm, Nokia Growth Partners.
Nokia is in the process of a reboot and sees an alliance with EV makers like Tesla as a boon to its future money making potential. It also wants to create a stronger maps business and rival competitors like Google.
“We’re seeing innovation that’s happening across the auto ecosystem through the combination of mobility and the Internet,” Paul Asel, a partner at the Nokia venture-capital arm, said. “The car is really becoming a platform like when the mobile handset became a smartphone and all the apps and services developed around that.”
Carmakers like Tesla are in the business of building smarter dashboard navigation systems, so Nokia’s investment is a solid bet. Features such as real-time traffic information, automated calls to emergency services during accidents and even automated-driving systems are all being bandied about for cars, including Tesla.
A year ago, Musk said Tesla was considering adding driverless technology to its vehicles, calling it a logical step in the evolution of cars. Its vehicles already include Internet access and connections for services such as roadside assistance and stolen-vehicle location.
Asel sees the investment as a way to stay in the game.
“People tend to look at BMW, Tesla and Google, but we think of this as a global play,” he said. “There’s also innovation happening from a different perspective in China and India that impacts how this plays out. Some of these car manufacturers may adopt services faster than the established ones to gain a foothold.”