Belgian digital mapping branch TomTom’s hope for the future
With sales of separate gps navigation devices dropping fast in favour of smart phone navigation apps, Dutch navigation technology company TomTom saw its consumer business shrink with 40%, from 152,3 million euro to 91 million. Digital maps for autonomous driving, core business at TomTom’s Ghent office, should counter this, CEO Harold Goddijn believes.
TomTom has to change its business that used to be oriented towards consumers heavily to B2B with high-tech digital maps for the autonomous driving business. “It takes a while to diversify, but we’ll get there”, Goddijn told newspaper De Tijd.
Long term contracts
These B2B activities are to generate larger profits, long-term contracts and in-advance payments. Turnover of the automotive branch totaled 328 million euro in 2017, a 22% rise with 400 million euro worth of new orders in the pipeline.
“Our contracts with Apple, Uber and Microsoft gave us a good reputation in digital mapping technology”, TomTom says. The Ghent division, a relic of Dutch-Belgian TeleAtlas that used to be the number one in the world of digital mapping next to Navteq, houses one of these mapping units. The others are located in Poland and India.
270 people working in Ghent
In Ghent 270 people are working on these digital map activities and TomTom is to hire even more people in the future. “Ghent has an important role in this story and lots of expertise”, Alain De Taeye, former CEO of TeleAtlas and still member of TomTom’s board of directors, says.
TomTom developes together with German automotive supplier Bosch ‘intelligent’ high definition maps that are able to update themselves in real time to form a solid base for semi and full autonomous driving. They are using artificial intelligence (AI) and data from the radar and video sensors of over a million cars to accomplish this.
Baidu’s autonomous car
Baidu, the ‘Chinese Google’ is developing its self-driving car with TomTom’s technology for instance. But competition will be fierce as Google, at one side, and Here Technologies, owned by car manufactures Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, are working on high-definition maps for this purpose too.
Here Technologies based in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) works with the legacy of the Chicago based digital map maker Navteq, which was first bought by Philips in the early nineties and later in 2007 by Nokia. In 2015 Nokia (acquired by Microsoft) sold it to the consortium of German car manufacturers.