- Location services firm TomTom has sold its telematics arm — which focuses on fleet management and connected car infrastructure — to tire manufacturer Bridgestone Corp. for nearly $1 billion. The move is expected to help TomTom focus on its navigation business.
- The acquisition will give Bridgestone access to data from TomTom Telematics’ 860,000 customers, which it says will help on the company’s "journey to becoming a mobility solutions leader in the region," according to a press release. The company has been expanding its data collection and analytics business, including using sensors to gather information on road conditions and tire wear.
- Bloomberg reports that TomTom had hinted last fall that it would explore selling the telematics business, which works with commercial fleets and leasing companies to streamline performance and improve the driver experience.
The move reinforces how in-demand location technology is, as tech companies and automakers seek to build out more advanced navigation software. Although TomTom was a major player in the early satellite navigation market, it has fallen off somewhat as drivers rely on cell phones for navigation, and as location needs get more sophisticated.
In an opinion piece on the deal, Bloomberg’s Alex Webb wrote that "better capitalized companies such as Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at mapping; companies at the cutting edge of self-driving technology, meanwhile, rely on other sensor arrays to understand the environment around a car ... In Silicon Valley, TomTom’s offering is seldom considered a viable option."
The demands of autonomous vehicles (AVs) mean that cities and companies are increasingly relying on sensors to create high-quality location services, like a planned map of Britain’s streets done in partnership with Mobileye, or the deployment of internet-enabled sensors in cities like Las Vegas that can help with traffic management.
The telematics move, which spins off some of TomTom’s connected vehicle work, also reflects the importance that fleets are likely to play in the future. As companies look past individual car ownership to a scenario where drivers rely on fleets of roving autonomous cars, keeping them maintained, connected and organized will be key for automakers. Last week, Cox Automotive released its own new fleet service network; Bridgestone’s new acquisition means it will move into a similar space.