Uber has started to look into how to improve its standard maps technology. With Google, Apple, and vehicle manufacturers seeking to design a new standard for the auto industry in the form of autonomous cars, Uber is acting now to ensure its service isn't rendered obsolete.
The taxi service has invested in technology to develop its own self-driving vehicles and other services that require a decent map software of its own. After poaching 40 engineers and leaving Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics division in shambles, Uber had the start of a team necessary to begin the work needed to catch up to its rivals. The company also purchased mapping startup deCarte in March. More recently, Microsoft's Bing mapping assets were purchased and 100 staff members were transferred to Uber. The company also bid on Nokia's Here maps service, but the assets were eventually sold to a group of German car manufacturers, which included Audi, BMW Group, and Mercedes-Benz. Undeterred, the company has used their new-found technology to outfit several Uber-branded cars with 3D cameras and send them around cities. The cameras on these mapping cars, courtesy of Bing Maps, are able to shoot pictures of the roads in a way similar to Google's cars used to generate Google Street View images. One of these cars was seen in Florence, Kentucky.
Uber is hoping that its increasingly state of the art mapping tech will improve its cab-hailing service. While the company's app does include a map, Uber borrows visuals from Google Maps. Eventually, Uber plans to use its images to helpfully advise its drivers on estimated arrival times (ETAs) and routing information. Additionally, Uber has sent out another collection of mapping cars to locations beside Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the University of Arizona. The Uber cars in this region are not using Bing's tech and instead work with the company's in-house solution.
Despite its recent advancements into the world of autonomous vehicles, Uber has a long path ahead of it if it intends to become a serious contender in the future. With Google's already massive lead, Uber needs to find a way to make a comparable experience happen with its own service, once it replaces all of its drivers with driverless vehicles.