HERE Technologies prepares for autonomous cars

Liad Itzhak Photo: Daniel Stern

As HERE Mobility launches its vehicle fleet optimization service, Liad Itzhak tells "Globes" about the rapid expansion of HERE's Israel development center.

Liad Itzhak did not expect that his job as Karhoo CTO would be so brief. After five years as head of data for traffic navigation company Waze, he started with London-based Karhoo in July 2016. He set up Karhoo's development center in Herzliya with 30 employees but in October 2016 was told that there was no more money and the Israeli center was being closed down.

Rather than fire his staff, he started to shop around for a new owner for the development center. Several companies expressed interest and began talks with him and within two weeks he had reached agreement with international digital mapping and car navigation company HERE Technologies.

HERE was founded in 1985 in the US and in 2007 was acquired by Nokia. In 2015 a consortium of German carmakers including Audi, BMW and Mercedes bought the company and last year Intel took a 15% stake in HERE. The company employs 9,000 people worldwide and is responsible for 80% of the maps installed in cars.

Itzhak's initiative led to the establishment of HERE Mobility and he serves as HERE Technologies VP and head of HERE Mobility. Currently at CES in Las Vegas, one year after being founding, HERE Mobility has launched HERE's Open Mobility Marketplace, which will serve as a central hub for 17 European countries with systems for optimizing and streamlining the management of vehicle fleets.

Since HERE Technologies opened its Israel development center, the offices have moved to Ra'anana and HERE Mobility's number of employees has quadrupled from 30 to 120 as well as 30 employees in Berlin. The development center will swell to 200 employees by the end of 2018, Itzhak expects.

The rapid growth of HERE Mobility is in line with McKinsey's forecast in 2015 that by 2030 the transport technology sector would grow tenfold and be worth $1.5 trillion annually, mainly due to the development of autonomous and connected cars and tougher regulation preventing cars from entering city centers. According to Itzhak, the fly in the ointment is that the new structure of the transportation sector will make it difficult for small players to compete.

He said, "We aim to solve two barriers that small players come up against. The first is demand where huge players like Uber are beginning to take control of the market. The second barrier is technology. Large fleets are developing for themselves optimization systems that are 20-30% and sometimes 50% more efficient than for small fleets. Their system helps them decide who receives each ride, what are the optimal routes and how to manage down time. The existing solutions are not available to small players and we want to close this gap and offers systems based on big data, machine learning and smart algorithms."

The market place is another type of solution. It is an interface allowing every transport provider to cope with passengers vis-a-vis rivals. "We have created a platform for anybody who wants to offer mobility services in a global way can join," he said. "It is directed at taxis, shared taxis, limousines, bicycle rentals, flights, buses, and trains."

Several dozen transport providers have signed up for the service so far and HERE Mobility expects hundreds more in Europe, North America and South America to join the service this year.

On the demand side Itzhak said, "Anybody who builds an app can connect up. If there is an app for booking flights, it will also be possible to book a taxi to the hotel. If a restaurant has an app then a button can be added to check out all the different ways of getting to the restaurant. Another example is for a smart city - if it wants to offer a lot of mobility services, it won't need to connect to every service provider but just to Marketplace. In the future we will open our own app but we don't want to create a situation in which only one app provides the service."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 9, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Liad Itzhak Photo: Daniel Stern
Liad Itzhak Photo: Daniel Stern
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