Here Safety Services Promises 'Actionable Intelligence' in Your Car

BMW will be the first automaker to use the system.

GC Images, via Getty Images

Here, the digital mapping company jointly owned by Audi, BMW, and Daimler, will debut a new connected service at CES 2018 that the company believes can dramatically increase road safety. Called Here Safety Services, it will be available on BMW models in Europe and North America beginning later this year.

The goal of Here Safety Services is to provide drivers with "actionable intelligence" about hazardous road conditions, the company said. Here believes that, even with the numerous assist systems available in modern cars, drivers still may not have time to react to potential hazards. By using a pool of data generated by scores of cars, Here hopes to give drivers more time.

Here Safety Services is similar in principle to the real-time traffic information the company already offers, but with a wider array of functions. Here Road Signs will give drivers signage information like speed limits, providing a backup in case signs are obscured by other vehicles or weather conditions. Here Hazard Warnings will warn drivers of dangerous conditions like heavy rain, fog, slippery roads, or broken-down vehicles. These features can be applied to human-driven cars or "highly-automated vehicles," Here said.

The information for Here Safety Services is provided by other vehicles on the road, which can use the cameras and other sensors that are part of their driver-assist systems to record data. That data is then collected in Here's Open Location Platform and beamed to other cars. To work effectively, Here will need a lot of cars equipped with some form of communication system that allows them to send and receive data (think vehicle-to-vehicle), and automakers willing to participate.

BMW agreed to contribute data from its customers' cars to the Open Location Platform in 2017 and will integrate the necessary hardware into future models. By 2019, Here predicts that more than 10 million connected BMWs will be on the road. All data is anonymized to protect road users' privacy, Here said, and any data contributed by one automaker is used by all of them. The more automakers, the bigger the data pool.

Harvesting massive amounts of data will be even more important for self-driving cars, which Here is already preparing for. All of that data will improve autonomous cars' ability to react to road hazards, and help orient them in the environment. But, as with data from smartphones and other personal devices, automakers and tech companies will have to work to keep all of that data secure.