Uber to Pour $500m into Global Mapping Project

Uber is preparing to pour $500m into an ambitious global mapping project as it seeks to wean itself off dependence on Google Maps and pave the way for driverless cars.

The company has decided to invest $500m in mapping, according to a person familiar with Uber’s plans, as it doubles down its efforts in this challenging space.

By developing its own maps Uber could eventually reduce its reliance on Google Maps, which currently power the Uber app in most of the world.

Although Google was an earlier investor in Uber, the two companies have avoided working closely together and are now developing rival technologies for driverless cars.

Last year Uber hired one of the world’s leading digital mapping experts, Brian McClendon, who previously ran Google Maps and helped create Google Earth.

One advantage of in-house mapping is greater precision, for example an exact location marker for the main door of a large office building rather than a side door.

This precision is particularly needed in developing countries where Google Maps and addresses tend to be less accurate. This is so problematic that in many non-western countries Uber drivers tend to call passengers to ask their location before a pick-up.

Ride-hailing companies automatically generate a vast set of data about traffic patterns and locations using information from drivers’ and riders’ phones, and Uber already incorporates some of its own mapping technologies into its app.

As Uber prepares to spend $500m on its mapping ambitions, the program follows earlier investments in mapping that include the acquisition of an imagery collection team from Microsoft’s Bing last June. Last year Uber also acquired deCarta, a mapping company that developed the turn-by-turn directions behind GM’s OnStar software.

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