Rather than having to rely on — and pay for — Google Maps to help its drivers navigate city streets, Uber is deploying its own mapping cars across the U.S. as well as Mexico. The $500 million mapping effort, eventually expected to expand to other parts of the globe, will also support the ride-hailing company’s self-driving car ambitions.
The company will be deploying its mapping cars in Mexico this summer, Brian McClendon, Uber’s vice president of advanced technologies, revealed in a blog post last week. It began its mapping efforts in the U.S. in 2015.
Citing “a person familiar with Uber’s plans,” the Financial Times yesterday reported that the company is investing half a billion dollars into the mapping program to reduce its dependence on Google Maps for navigation smarts. Uber was once supported by startup funding from Google, but has become more of a rival over the years and has recently seen rising costs to use Google Maps.
‘Doubling Down on Our Investment’
“Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business,” said McClendon, who in 2001 co-founded a company called Keyhole that was acquired by Google in 2004 and became the foundation for Google Earth. “The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping.”
Until last year, McClendon was vice president of engineering for Google, where he worked on the company’s Geo programs, including Maps, Earth, Streetview and EarthEngine. He was hired by Uber in June 2015.
“Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started,” McClendon noted. “That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars.”
Seeking More ‘Relevant’ Map Details