How HERE is helping improve urban mobility with WeGo app: We took a ride to know!

We drive with HERE Technologies CEO Edzard Overbeek from one end of Las Vegas to another; he shares how location data can address congestion, manage traffic, and even help in the development of autonomous cars.

By:Updated: February 22, 2020 10:12:28 AM

People, the world over, are increasingly using live, interactive maps when travelling from point A to point B. Often, their go-to navigation app is Google Maps—its clutter-free user interface works to its advantage, and Android is the leading mobile OS globally, with a 74.13% share (December 2019, Statista). But there are many other navigation apps in the market—HERE WeGo, Waze (now part of Google), MapQuest, Sygic and so on. In India, MOVE by MapmyIndia is a critically-acclaimed app. “The end-consumer will use the app that delights her,” says HERE Technologies CEO Edzard Overbeek, as I accept the car ride he offers me from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the MGM Grand (during last month’s CES 2020).

HERE, a location data and technology platform that primarily caters to the B2B sector, recently developed HERE WeGo, a product for the end-consumer. Google Maps, the company knows, is a formidable competitor to this product. “If a consumer is looking for end-to-end navigation solution, she has multiple choices, but if you take a closer look at HERE WeGo, it is more than merely a navigation solution, it is a journey manager for you,” he adds. “It is like a personal assistant.” He is correct. As I open the app on my phone, I notice it shows me not just the roads and addresses, but also indoor mapping. In fact, I had opened the app inside the LVCC and it guided me to the most convenient exit. It then showed all forms of transportation (foot, taxi, train, car, bus). Interestingly, as our car traverses the roads of Las Vegas, I see the app showing a 3D model of the city, down to details such as even the exterior architecture of multiple buildings we cross.

“Wherever you are in your journey, this app will provide you with all the assistance you need for a seamless experience,” adds Overbeek. “It works accurately even if you’re offline.” Apart from HERE WeGo, the company has developed various navigation-related solutions such as HERE Navigation On-Demand (for vehicle-centric navigation); HERE Lanes (digital representation of the global road network); HERE Last Mile (for fleet operators and food delivery apps); HERE HD GNSS (to achieve sub-meter accuracy across the globe); Public Transit and Intermodal API (smarter ways to get to a destination); and so on. These solutions, Overbeek says, are important for autonomous driving and the development of connected cars.

HERE in India
In 2019, many carmakers launched ‘connected cars’ in India. These cars have inbuilt traffic maps, but not by HERE (Hyundai and Kia have MapmyIndia maps, and MG Motor has TomTom), even though the company’s Mumbai office has thousands of employees developing maps every day, both for India and the world. “We needed to prioritise; we decided that within the Asia-Pacific we will first focus on China, Japan and South Korea, and then Southeast Asia. Now, however, we will become more active in India,” he adds. “We will work out new partnerships (in India) and look at new industries that can benefit from our location services.” He points out that the company could play a role India’s Smart Cities Mission. “Traffic management is one of the ways we can work with local governments,” he says. Its offices in India employ about 40% of its global workforce. Overbeek adds: “We have access to people who are highly educated and talented, and that’s why we have invested so much in India.”

Public transit
It’s natural to get stuck in traffic in Las Vegas, which has conferences round the year. As we wait in what looks like an endless traffic jam, he says solutions such as Public Transit and Intermodal will work well for urban dwellers. HERE Technologies has aggregated public transit data covering 1,900 cities in 65 countries. This means urban commuters can plan a convenient way to get to their destination. By way of example, Overbeek says, “If a train is leaving in two minutes but the station is a five-minute walk away, Public Transit API is smart enough to know you may need to take the next connection.” This is something Google Maps doesn’t support. This API also provides pedestrian instructions such as stairways, sidewalks, crosswalks, bridges, tunnels, elevators and escalators.

Shared mobility
Navigation data and consumers’ willingness to share location—if they know what it’s being used for—can give a boost to shared mobility, which, he feels, is the need of the hour. “In urban traffic in the US, maybe 90% of the time only one person is inside a car. That gives rise to the need for shared mobility. Like what we are doing right here (four people in a car, doing an interview meeting), that’s the way to think about it,” he says.

As we are about to reach MGM Grand, he adds HERE is going into the new decade with a lot of excitement, opportunities and momentum. “At CES, we demonstrated the power of our platform to customers, partners and developers across industries. From addressing congestion to improving driver safety and supply-chain efficiency, location data and technology are at the heart of solutions in the digital era.”

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