The Financial Times reports that Uber will invest $500 million into a global mapping project in an effort to decrease its dependence on Google Maps and to prepare for autonomous driving. The FT cited “a person familiar with Uber’s plans” as the source.
Uber has already hired Brian McClendon, formerly the head of Google Maps for more than a decade. In a post on the Uber site last week, McClendon noted that “Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.”
Today I lead Uber’s mapping efforts to ensure we can provide a safe, reliable ride—no matter where you are. To do that, Uber uses a mix of mapping technologies (including our own) to provide the underlying infrastructure for our apps.
Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. 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. Last year we put mapping cars on the road in the United States. This summer they hit the road in Mexico. Our efforts are similar to what other companies including Apple and TomTom are already doing around the world.—Brian McClendon
In August 2015, Uber signed a partnership with the University of Arizona focused on research and development in the optics space for mapping and safety. (Earlier post.)
Earlier this year, Uber announced that autonomous driving test car in Pittsburgh, a hybrid Ford Fusion, is collecting mapping data as well as testing its self-driving capabilities. (Earlier post.)
Earlier this month, DigitalGlobe, a leading of high-resolution Earth imagery, data, and analytics, announced a multi-year, global partnership with Uber to supply high resolution satellite imagery. (Earlier post.)
In May, Toyota Motor Corporation and Uber entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore collaboration, starting with trials, in the world of ridesharing in countries where ridesharing is expanding, taking various factors into account such as regulations, business conditions, and customer needs. As part of the partnership, Toyota Financial Services Corporation and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership made a strategic investment in Uber. (Earlier post.)
Uber has raised more than $13.5 billion, including money from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and China’s Baidu.