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Everybody Wants Nokia’s Maps Division

The leading alternative to Google racks up bids in the billions

Driving around a city block in downtown Berkeley, Calif., a white Subaru with cameras and laser radar mounted on its roof is drawing gawkers. One pedestrian asks the driver if the car is part of Google’s Street View team. No, comes the response: The Subaru is with the other guys. It’s snapping photos and recording location data for Nokia Here, one of the largest competitors to Google’s decade-old effort to index every bend in the world’s roads and an asset that’s suddenly of immense value to parent company Nokia.

Every business betting on a future full of self-driving cars and delivery drones will need a mapping service that can navigate in three dimensions, and most would love an alternative to eternal dependence on Google Maps, especially if they compete with Google in other arenas. (Google sells ads against Maps and sometimes charges app makers who want to incorporate the service into their software.)