According to the report, Uber currently has vehicles out “crisscrossing” the highways and byways of the U.S. and Mexico in order to record the surroundings and capture images and data of the terrain and streets. Uber plans to send out similar vehicles throughout other countries to map the terrain there as well in the near future.
FT, which credits the half-billion number for Uber’s mapping investment to a “person familiar with Uber’s plans,” says the company is plumbing the billions it has raised from investors prior to an IPO to “secure its long-term growth” by investing in original research and products.
Uber is hoping to reduce or eliminate its dependence on Google Maps altogether, according to FT. Ironically, Google was an early investor in Uber, but the two companies are now working independently to develop rival technology for driverless cars.
Uber has hired Brian McClendon, who ran Google Maps and helped create Google Earth, to oversee its mapping project, according to FT.
“The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping,” McClendon said in a statement. “The street imagery captured by our mapping cars will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like ideal pickup and dropoff points and the best routes for riders and drivers.”
Having its own proprietary — and, potentially, more accurate — mapping system would definitely give Uber a leg-up over Google and other competitors once self-driving cars start to hit the market.