Uber has invested in mapping technology to collect imagery that will accurately calculate pick-up and drop-off times so as to reduce its reliance of Google and Apple Maps. Vehicles that have been fitted with image capturing devices hit the roads of Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. If successful, the Uber mapping cars will go to other Australian locations in the coming months.
Uber fleets are already collecting imagery in the streets of Mexico, Canada, the UK and South Africa. Leading the project of Uber Maps is Manik Gupta who previously led the efforts for Google Maps. Google was one of the early investors of Uber and the original research from the mapping efforts have helped in improving driver and rider experiences.
While Google Maps were a good starting point, there was some information that has no relevance for Uber like ocean topography. There are more important things for Uber like traffic patterns and accurate pick-up and drop-off points to provide a seamless experience in certain parts of the world where there are no street signs or detailed maps.
In order to fine-tune its mapping capabilities, Uber bought deCarta in 2015. Afterwards, Uber also acquired Microsoft’s Bing mapping assets that included the cameras that Microsoft used in collecting imagery data. Part of the deal was a datacenter in Colorado including its 100 engineers and intellectual properties.
Uber was also planning to buy Here for approximately $4 billion but Audi, BMW and Daimler were more successful and purchased Here for €2.8 billion. According to Bloomberg, Uber’s investment in mapping technology will speed up its autonomous car testing which was stopped recently in San Francisco when the California Department of Motor Vehicles cancelled the registrations of 100 self-driving cars when Uber refused to obtain permits as required by DMV.
Since the beginning of time, maps have served a purpose to humans because they made it easier to find certain location in a city. However, map illustrations are more than just ordinary maps; they were created to be visually appealing to lessen a traveler’s anxiety in an unfamiliar city. The illustrated map is more focused on landmarks and establishments as references for direction.