From today Uber will start mapping Australian streets, beginning with the Gold Coast, in an effort to build its own street data and reduce its reliance on third-party maps.
Similar to Google, Uber is equipping cars with mapping devices to record traffic patterns and the location of popular pick-up and drop-off spots. The ride-sharing service is using existing driver partners to map streets rather than putting extra cars on the road.
Uber’s head of maps Manik Gupta — a former Google Maps exec — said the ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why the company is making its own investment in mapping.
“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 pick-up and drop-off 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,” Gupta wrote in a blog post.
“The street imagery captured by our mapping devices will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like the best routes for riders and drivers, and identify street segments that are better suited for pick-ups and drop-offs.”
Gupta addressed rider privacy: “Of course, we take the privacy of our riders very seriously. If you catch a ride with one of these, know that the devices do not retain any imagery at or around your initial pick-up or final drop-off locations.”
Late last year Uber deployed mapping cars in Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“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. I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can’t even imagine today,” Gupta wrote.
Last week Uber announced it plans to share its traffic data with city and transport planners to aid infrastructure development.