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Amazon and Microsoft will reportedly invest in Here, the self-driving car mapping unit

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Hi-def maps key to autonomous technology

Amazon and Microsoft are two of the biggest technology companies in the world who have yet to make overt steps toward the world of autonomous vehicles, but that may soon change. Sources are telling Reuters that both companies are interested in providing cloud computing capabilities to Here, the mapping business formerly owned by Nokia and recently acquired by a consortium of German automakers. The car companies, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes' parent company Daimler, are all interested in building self-driving cars.

In addition, Amazon is said to be interested in becoming a shareholder in Here, which would ensure the e-commerce giant becomes the primary provider of cloud computing to the company. That would be helpful as Here continues to collect mounds of data from the sensors mounted on the roofs of thousands of self-driving BMW, Audi, and Mercedes vehicles.

not the only companies eyeing here

The three automakers purchased Here last December for €2.8 billion, or just over $3 billion. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the report, but noted Here's shareholders "have stressed since the acquisition in early December that they are open to additional investors from all industries."

And Amazon and Microsoft aren't the only companies eyeing Here. Reuters also reports that Renault, the French automaker that owns Nissan, and automotive supplier Continental have both expressed interest. Continental told the wire service yesterday a decision on whether to buy a stake in Here would be imminent.

The amount of interest in Here signals the centrality that high-definition maps will play to the automotive world, especially as more and more manufacturers get into the autonomous game. Uber is building up its mapping division in parallel to its self-driving unit, the former staffed with ex-Google employees and the latter with Carnegie Mellon University engineers. Google Maps product manager Manik Gupta jumped to Uber's mapping division last December. His new boss is Brian McClendon, the former head of Google's entire mapping division. Meanwhile, TomTom has recently started to work with auto parts maker Bosch to develop road maps for self-driving vehicles.