Uber to invest $500 million in custom digital cartography
Back in the pre-internet days, most people would get around using maps printed on paper, or in books, such as the A to Z.
One hand on the steering wheel, one hand holding the book, and someone in the passenger seat to tell you you’re going the wrong way.
When you think of maps these days you probably think of Google.
Not only is Google the first place most people look when they want to find textual information on the internet, the company’s servers are also home to arguably the best maps of planet Earth available anywhere in the world.
Presented in traditional illustrative style as well as satellite imagery, when it comes to digital cartography, Google is the go-to company, and most companies do indeed integrate Google maps into their apps.
But Uber, the taxi-hailing app that has taken the world by storm over the past couple of years, is hoping to move away from its reliance on Google maps.
Which is ironic when you consider that it was Google’s $258 million investment in Uber in 2013 which put the hitherto-little-known app maker on the global media and business map.
Not that Uber was doing all that badly before Google came along. All told, Uber is today estimated to be worth more that $62 billion. And when it does eventually have its own fleet of driverless vehicles, who knows how much it will be worth.
Brian McClendon, VP advanced technologies, Uber, says in a company blog post that behind every successful Uber ride is a technology that many people take for granted — maps.
“In fact, Uber wouldn’t exist if comprehensive interactive digital maps hadn’t been created first,” says McClendon.
However, current maps are not specifically suited to the Uber ride-sharing app — they can have too much information about some things, such as ocean topography, for example.
McClendon says: “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 ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping.”