Uber wants to improve its mapping technologies to have more data on traffic patterns and offer better pickups and drop-offs. And for this, the company is planning to invest half a billion dollars into creating its own worldwide maps, a crucial step towards using autonomous cars, reports The Financial Times.
The ride-hailing company that introduced mapping cars in the U.S. last year and more recently in Mexico now plans to extend the initiative soon in other countries as well, according to Brian McClendon, the former head of Google maps, who was recently hired by the ride-hailing company.
“Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business,” McClendon said in a blog post. Uber wouldn’t exist if interactive digital maps hadn’t been there first, he added.
The Financial Times reported that the company is looking to "pour $500m into an ambitious global mapping project," which would allow the company to create their own detailed maps.
McClendon says that relying entirely on existing maps has been "a good starting point," but that doesn’t provide the granular level of detail that the company could use, such as traffic patterns, locations of doors or other potential pickup locations. This new investment will allow the company to build up tailor-made maps that would provide this level of detail.
Detailed maps are essential to Uber’s operations and its future. The company has begun taking some early steps into using autonomous vehicles, which would rely heavily on precise maps. The company has hired former Google employees such as McClendon, acquired mapping companies, and has forged partnerships with companies such as TomTom and DigitalGlobe.