Uber is intensifying its efforts to be the foremost leader in the technology industry through its most recent investment. The company has put millions into a global mapping project which would see it ditch the use of Google Maps in its operations. And that’s just one aspect of what the investment means. The whooping $500 million investment by Uber also strategically positions the transportation network company in the futuristic race between its company and others – which primarily includes Google – to successfully and independently develop maps for driverless cars.
The Google Maps technology has been significantly instrumental in making Uber the leading taxi-hailing service worldwide, based on its provision of location services, with Google even chipping in some investment for Uber in its early days. However, judging by events between both companies since then, such as expert mapper Brian McClendon’s move from Google to Uber as Vice President last year, it appears that the relationship between both technology giants has become more terse.
Although it credits the existence of Google Maps for the better part of its success, one apparent reason for Uber’s decision to oversee its navigations is Google’s increase in charges for the use of its map. However, the bigger picture is its vision of carving an even deeper niche for itself in the business of technology by developing more original projects. Starting with the advent of developing its own, more precise map, for driverless cars or autonomous cars.
Thus far, Google Maps has been the go-to application for finding locations for both drivers and riders for about ten years now. Yet, Google’s obvious advantage aside, Uber seems prepared to stake its claim in advancing the technology industry in the nearest future. A future that it literally has to map out for itself without the help of Google. Presently, Uber’s mapping activities cover the USA and Mexico, but is soon to spread to over 60 other countries around the world where the company’s application runs.
On a more immediate note, Uber wishes to use its mapping resources to tackle the present challenges that the ride-hailing service encounters regarding precision in picking and dropping customers off at certain locations. Some of which can still not be found using Google Maps.
According to Vice President McClendon, who was front and centre in developing Google Maps and Google Earth, Uber needs to be able to “provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren’t detailed maps or street signs.” To this end, Uber has bought a number of mapping companies over the last year, and currently includes some of its mapping technologies in providing its services.
Meanwhile, it remains uncertain as to whether Uber really plans to use its maps outside of its ride-hailing service, as McClendon states that the current mapping project is “tailored to the Uber experience.”