Uber to Invest $500 Million in Global Mapping Project Led By Google Earth Creator

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Ride hailing company Uber is planning to spend $500 million on a global mapping project in an effort to reduce its reliance on Google Maps, according to The Financial Times.

The San Fransisco-based company already has mapping vehicles recording geographical data around the U.S. and Mexico. With Uber's presence in over 60 countries, the significant expansion reflects its continuing growth and adds to its existing investment in original research like driverless cars.

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Last year, it hired world-leading digital mapping expert Brian McClendon, who previously ran Google Maps and was one of the creators of Google Earth.

McClendon will be responsible for the mapping project, and recently commented on the plans in a blog post without mentioning the $500 million figure:

The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we're doubling down on our investment in mapping. Our efforts are similar to what other companies including Apple and TomTom are already doing around the world.

The street imagery captured by our mapping cars will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like ideal pick-up and drop-off points and the best routes for riders and drivers.

Address data in Google Maps is typically less accurate in developing countries, resulting in some Uber drivers having to call passengers to ask for their location before a pick-up. Uber hopes to nix these problems and feed the traffic pattern and location data already gathered by its cars into its own mapping system, thereby also avoiding charges for using Google Maps.

News of Uber's multi-million-dollar mapping investment was partially eclipsed by reports over the weekend that Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing is to acquire its Chinese operations in a $35 billion deal.

Apple's own $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing back in May gave the Cupertino company access to data and expertise on electric and autonomous car technology, which is likely to help with its own car-related project, dubbed Project Titan, now led by veteran Apple executive Bob Mansfield.

Top Rated Comments

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55 months ago

Why does every company feel the need to reinvent the wheel? Especially when it's to the tune of $500 million dollars. Just partner up with Google, folks. Everybody wins.

Google is an arrogant company. Using their maps is toxic for any company in the long run, as it puts their destiny in Google's hands.

Apple was forced to build their maps from scratch as Google tried to exploit the advantage limiting turn by turn directions to their own Android OS.

The move has proved catastrophic for Google, with iOS usage dropping from 100% to 20%. We're talking about the crème of the crème of mobile users, lost in a fell swoop.

As long as a company has the huge resources needed, they will build their own maps from scratch.

EDIT: clarity
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

Why does every company feel the need to reinvent the wheel? Especially when it's to the tune of $500 million dollars. Just partner up with Google, folks. Everybody wins.

I use Uber quite a bit, and have mixed results on drivers being able to locate me. If I'm waiting at my home, or at an office building or restaurant, where the building entrance is reasonably specified by the address, then no problem. However, for large irregular structure with many access points, such as train stations, then it's a big problem; especially for a taxi service. I have been left standing helplessly watching the Uber map while drivers made huge circles around my location, following Google directions mindlessly to the "official address location", rather than to the actual drop-off/pickup locations.

If Uber's strategy is to move to driverless cars, then Google's maps in the current form are grossly inadequate. It's Uber's call whether they can rely on Google to address these deficiencies.
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OpenStreetMap!

Why is everyone wasting money on yet another map of the same world. Where I live, OSM already beats everything in accuracy and data depth, thanks to local people that actually just go and fix problems.

Give them some money and equipment to spread into the rest of the world and this becomes a permanently solved problem!

I don't know about OSM, but if it's "open", it's going to be oriented toward human drivers. Uber needs a navigation map that meets the specific needs of robot drivers. If a contributor is allowed to put in an incorrect direction without verification, that's going to be a disaster for a robot.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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55 months ago
"….reduce its reliance on Google Maps" ……. oh this sounds deja vu, doesn't it?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

"….reduce its reliance on Google Maps" ……. oh this sounds deja vu, doesn't it?

Anybody that can is "reducing their reliance on Google Maps", Apple at the center of the spotlight, because Google didn't allow Apple to have turn-by-turn so they could push Android, Apple had to create Apple Maps. A great deal of why Windows Phone failed was also because Google barred Google Maps from Windows Phone, and Microsoft didn't have a trusted competitor.

Dealing with Google is disgustingly, and the perception of Google by the general public ("why didn't Apple keep using Google Maps and didn't create their own" they said) is twisted. Better start early.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

Why does every company feel the need to reinvent the wheel? Especially when it's to the tune of $500 million dollars. Just partner up with Google, folks. Everybody wins.

You mean like when Google withheld turn by turn from Apple? No, no, power corrupts. Besides, at the rate Apple maps is progressing, whatever advantage Google has will be wiped out in 2-3 years IMO... in some respects Apple maps is already better and it will get a big jolt next year when Apple opens up its maps R&D center in India with 4,000 engineers focused on maps. Competition is doing its job.

That said, I'm sure they can all work together in some areas to reduce waste and redundancy... perhaps adopting and building upon Google's API's which can be used by governments and businesses to update street, transit and other vital info for all map makers.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 months ago

Apple was forced to build their maps from scratch as Google tried to exploit the advantage limiting turn by turn directions to their own Android OS. The move has proved catastrophic, with iOS usage dropping from 100% to 20%.

The "catastrophe" was short-lived and limited to bad PR. Apple never lost a dime in iPhone sales due to the switch from Google Maps data. Apple does not monetize their Map app, so there is no direct negative consequence to Apple if some users choose a competing app. In recent years, the consensus is that Apple has caught up with Google on mapping - at least in the US - and has surpassed them in some cases in terms of accuracy and usability.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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