Uber is to invest $500m in developing its own mapping software to reduce the firm's heavy reliance on Google, according to reports.
Uber drivers and customers use Google's maps to pinpoint pick-up and drop-off locations, and follow GPS-directed routes.
The platform is well tested, but creates a risk for Uber because any changes or downtime in the service beyond its control could affect business. Furthermore, the maps may not contain the most relevant information for the company's requirements.
The Financial Times has now reported that Uber will create its own maps, giving the firm total control over the entire customer and driver ecosystem.
It is clear that Uber sees maps as central to its success. A recent blog post by Brian McClendon, a former top executive on Google’s mapping software who was poached by Uber last year, underlined this point.
“Behind every successful Uber ride is a technology that many of us take for granted: maps. Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business,” he said.
McClendon explained that Uber will need more specialised maps in the future, particularly if self-driving cars become more prominent on the world’s roads.
“Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information is not that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations,” he said.
"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.
"Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started. That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars."
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