Uber Spending $500 Million to Make its Own Maps
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Uber has depended on Google Maps for its mobile ride-hailing service for some time now. And that's been fine. Google doesn't plan to launch a competing service of its own anytime soon, and Uber has raked in enough revenue that whatever it's paying Google for Maps data hasn't been much of a financial burden.
With the two companies now independently expanding into similar business areas around vehicles -- namely, cars with more autonomy and potentially even cars that can drive themselves -- the two seemed headed for a great business clash. And it should come as no small surprise that Uber is now looking to eliminate its reliance on Google Maps and instead use its own mapping service to power users' ride-hailing experiences.
"Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn't that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. 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," reads a new blog post from Uber.
"The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we're doubling down on our investment in mapping. Last year we put mapping cars on the road in the United States. This summer they hit the road in Mexico. Our efforts are similar to what other companies including Apple and TomTom are already doing around the world."
According to The Financial Times, Uber is looking to spend up to $500 million to create its own mapping setup, which includes deploying mapping vehicles around the United States and Mexico. And these vehicles aren't just duplicating previous companies' efforts. They could allow Uber to acquire more precise data strictly themed to its service: the location of a side door at a company, for example, which is more important for Uber's pick-ups than Google's Street View.
"Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn't have imagined when I started. That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars. I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can't even imagine today," Uber mapping expert Brian McClendon, formerly head of Google Maps, wrote in a blog post.
Recently, Uber also announced a multi-year partnership with DigitalGlobe. The company's satellites are powerful enough to discern a one-foot by one-foot item on the Earth, and they'll provide Uber with high-resolution imagery to help improve its mapping efforts.