Uber’s own mapping service will be part of self-driving car initiative, according to reports
Uber is to invest $500 million (£380m) on developing its own digital maps that will reduce the ride-sharing company’s reliance on Google Maps, according to reports.
The investment will be part of Uber’s plan to introduce self-driving cars, an initiative that was started last year when Uber began mapping the US and Mexico with its own Google-like mapping vehicles.
Uber wants to use its own mapping service to get more information on traffic and learn more accurate locations for pickup and drop-off points. A source familiar with Uber’s plans told the Financial Times that Uber will spend $500 million in mapping, and Uber itself said it will rollout its mapping vehicles to more countries soon.
“The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping,” wrote Uber mapping lead Brian McClendon in a blog post last week.
“The street imagery captured by our mapping cars will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like ideal pick-up and drop-off points and the best routes for riders and drivers.
Although our imagery collection efforts are focused now in Mexico, we plan to expand these efforts to other countries soon.”
Uber has recently raised $3.5 billion, and acquired mapping company deCarta last March. Uber also bought technology that was used by Microsoft’s Bing maps. Last July, Uber lost its bid for Nokia’s mapping service Here, beaten back by a higher offer from German automotive collective BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
But it appears the loss hasn’t affected Uber, which is charging ahead with its own mapping business.
“Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography,” said McClendon.
“There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pickup and dropoff locations. Moreover, we need to be able to provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren’t detailed maps — or street signs.”
The move comes as Uber sells its Chinese division to ride-sharing rival Didi Chuxing for a reported $35 billion (£27bn). Uber China launched in 2014 bus has so far failed to break the monopoly of Didi, which claims an 87 percent market share in the country. Didi itself is a product of a merger between Didi Dacge and Kuaidi Dache, and is in an alliance with US firm Lyft, India’s Ola and South East Asia’s Grab ride-sharing providers.
“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that being successful is about listening to your head as well as following your heart,” wrote Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a blog post seen by Bloomberg. “Uber and Didi Chuxing are investing billions of dollars in China and both have yet to turn a profit there.”
Uber will retain a 5.9 percent stake in the business.
Main image: Uber