Uber is to invest in its own set of maps rather than relying on Google. It’s not just a cost issue: the company says a new approach will be needed for autonomous vehicles.
While Google does charge for commercial use of its maps, Uber’s move isn’t necessarily a case of cost-cutting. It’s said to be putting $500 million into the mapping project and already has vehicles out gathering data on roads in Mexico.
The main impetus for the move is the need for specialized information, both in the current Uber model where drivers don’t necessarily have the precise knowledge of local roads that licensed cab drivers have, and the seemingly inevitable evolution to driverless Ubers.
According to the company, not only do existing map data sets contain a lot of information irrelevant to its needs (such as oceans) but they are missing some detail that would improve its services. This includes more information that would help find the most efficient route (which isn’t always the shortest) along with details such as where the main entrance/pick-up point is on a large tower block or office complex.
Uber also hopes its own mapping will make its services more viable in countries where existing street maps are severely lacking and some streets don’t even have clear signs.