Toyota Embraces Nokia Maps For European Cars

Nokia’s digital maps and location services, recently rebranded “Here,” are getting more traction from a division of the world’s largest automaker: Toyota Motor Europe. Nokia announced in late January that Toyota would be offering the mobile company’s local search feature in new cars sold in Europe, Russia and the Middle East beginning early 2014.

Specifically, Nokia’s Local Search For Automotive will be included as part of one of multiple in-dash touchscreen navigation options available in Toyota’s “Touch & Go” information system.Nokia will be coming to “all cars taking the Touch & Go navigation system, which is available on most models in Europe,” explained Derek Williams, Toyota Motor Europe’s general manager for telematics and multimedia, in an email to TPM.

However, Toyota drivers in the U.S. won’t be getting Nokia’s Local Search in their cars at the same time.

A Toyota USA spokesperson said they were “not aware of any plan for this in the US,” and Williams said “we are not aware of other regions planning to use the same service.”

Still, the move marks an important boost to Nokia’s efforts to vie with Google when it comes digital maps for the consumer market. Already, Nokia claims that its Here services are used in “4 out of 5 cars with in-dash navigation,” so the expansion to new Toyota Motor Europe models should only further bolster that coverage.

“We do not disclose the absolute number of vehicles, but we include in this statistic both commercial vehicles and consumer cars,” added Pino Bonetti, Nokia Here communications manager, in an email to TPM.

Bonetti did specify some of the leading auto brands Nokia provides with mapping and location data, including “Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dacia, ESRI, Ford, Garmin, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Nikon, Pioneer, Scania, Toyota and Volkswagen.” General Motors’ OnStar vehicle security and diagnostics system, too, is among the customers that rely on Nokia’s map data (via Navteq, a Chicago company Nokia acquired in 2008).

Yet in the U.S., Hyundai, Kia and Audi all recently announced they’d be offering Google Maps products in their cars going forward.

And Nokia’s new deal with Toyota doesn’t oust Google — Toyota Europe’s Touch & Go already offered drivers the option to use Google Places Local Search, and that will remain alongside Nokia from 2014 onward, Williams confirmed to TPM.

Check out a video showing off the older version of Touch & Go, first unveiled in January 2011. Google Local Search can clearly be seen at the 1:48 minute mark.

Nokia also pointed out that even in some cars that offer Google Local Search and other Google Maps and Earth options, it’s actually Nokia that still provides turn-by-turn navigation.

“It is important to clarify that even if sometimes car infotainment systems are looking for places online using search engines, the actual turn-by-turn navigation is provided by [Nokia] HERE,” Bonetti wrote.

Toyota’s and Nokia’s plans for the future of driving may also be converging, especially concerning semi-autonomous — or “self-driving” vehicle systems, and inter-vehicle/infrastructure communications.

“This is an interesting topic,” Bonetti wrote when asked by TPM about autonomous systems. “We actually believe in a Connected Car that will be able to reduce driver distraction, find locations of interest, avoid traffic, find parking, add security and fuel saving features rather than drive the car itself.”

Nokia first began promoting the idea of a Connected Car heavily last summer, when it said it was working with Ford on the concept. Asked specifically whether Nokia was working with Toyota as well, the company did not specify.

“By providing a location platform combined with applications and the freshest and best quality map content, we are bringing this philosophy to all of our automotive customers,” Bonetti said.

Toyota, which showed off semi-autonomous vehicle technology at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in January and confirmed to TPM it is testing such vehicle systems on roads in Michigan, was cagey about its partners in the field.

“Unfortunately we can’t comment on current development plans in this area,” Williams told TPM.

“We are not prepared to discuss anything we might be doing with Nokia on autonomous driving technologies – we not discussing any supplier relationships around that,” a Toyota USA spokesperson told TPM.

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