Ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies announced a $500 million investment in an unnamed mapping product designed to make the company’s hugely popular app less reliant on Google Maps.
According to the report released Sunday, the taxi-app firm owns a fleet of mapping vehicles that gather data for the new mapping product. The vehicles were spotted across the U.S. and Mexico, some sources say.
The rumor mill has it that Uber will deploy similar vehicles in other countries soon. While Uber’s freedom may seem costly, experts say that its freedom was not the only reason behind the investment.
An Uber official said that Google Maps fails to meet all the company’s needs. The spokesperson said that Google’s application is a “good starting point,” but some data fails to be relevant.
The San-Fransico-based company noted that its drivers need information on traffic, and exact drop-off and pick-up sites as well. Furthermore, the company wants customers to have a wonderful experience with the service even in parts of the world where there isn’t a well-developed road infrastructure.
Uber also said that the new technology will focus on delivering more accurate data on pick-up and drop-off locations, as the street imagery provided by the Google product currently has major holes. Drivers should also have access to ideal routes when running the Uber app, the comapny said.
While to mere mortals it may seem much, $500 million represents a drop in the ocean to a company that has so far raised more than $12 billion. The real issue is whether the ridesharing company really needs the service.
Google recently upped Maps fees for businesses, but the rise is not enough to provide a justification for Uber’s efforts to build a new mapping service from scratch. Yet, since Uber keeps most of its world-domination plans secret, it is hard to learn the real reason for its move.
Some analysts speculate that it may have something to do with its efforts to build a fully automated car since self-driving technologies need accurate maps to move around. Uber first tested its self-driving cars in Pittsburg, PA, earlier this year.
The company’s prototype was a hybrid Ford Fusion retrofitted as a driverless vehicle by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC). The car which was equipped with sensors, lasers, and radars was also collecting mapping data while on the road.
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