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Re-measuring the world: Uber goes all-in on driverless car maps

Uber is sending mapping cars to Singapore roads. (Photo: Uber)

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The ride-hailing company is starting to map Singapore roads – a key asset to push-start autonomous mobility.

Detailed digital maps are critical to ensure that autonomous cars can navigate our cities. The companies creating the required databases tend to be the familiar names: Google, HERE, TomTom. Well, until now that is. According to a Business Insider report, Uber has joined them. Starting by mapping Singapore city roads, the initiative forms part of a broader plan to expand its service in the Southeast Asian region.

In a recent blog post, Uber’s Director of Product Manik Gupta explained the company’s decision. According to the executive, existing maps would certainly be “a good starting point”, but have so far proven insufficient for Uber’s purposes. Instead, “traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations” are becoming key factors in optimizing customer experience and service reliability – especially as the firm is gradually opting to add self-driving services to their portfolio.

“We’ve equipped some vehicles used by driver-partners with our mapping devices. This allows us to collect the most important data – in places where Uber trips go – without putting more cars on the road,” Mr. Gupta wrote in his statement.

What else is in it for Uber? A lot. The company’s recent move could enable it to become a one-stop shop for driverless mobility: independent from map providers like Google, the development comes at a time when proprietary mapping data is becoming a significant advantage in the growing market of self-driving services.

While Uber’s decision to take to the streets of Singapore came as a surprise, a number of previous hints had already pointed to a larger ambition to build its own data-based maps. These include the hiring of former Microsoft Bing data-collection engineers as well as Google Maps executives – among them Mr. Gupta himself. In 2015, Uber purchased mapping startup deCarta, a company that specialized in providing location APIs, in-map searches and turn-by-turn navigational systems.

In an exclusive interview with 2025AD, automotive mastermind Russ Shields recently explained how digital maps will not only chiefly help driverless cars get around all by themselves, but also significantly reduce traffic accidents and save lives.

Read the full Business Insider article here.

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