One of the major elements to Uber is maps, and the transport app currently utilises a mix off mapping technologies, including Google Maps. One of those technologies is now its own, with Uber rolling out its own mapping cars to develop more tailored functionality for drivers and passengers.
A combination of mapping and GPS is what matches you with the closest available driver, navigates the fastest path to your destination, and gives you an accurate ETA.
Google's former head of maps of over a decade, who left the company to work at Uber in June 2015, said in a statement that the importance is so great that Uber wouldn't exist if comprehensive interactive digital maps hadn't been created first.
"Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography," Brian McClendon said. "There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pickup and dropoff 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".
The need for tailored maps is why Uber is "doubling down" on its investment in mapping, McClendon says, comparing what Uber is doing with what other companies including Apple and TomTom are already doing around the world. Uber started last year with mapping cars in the U.S, and they will soon be rolling out in Mexico, with other countries "coming soon".
McClendon says the street imagery captured by the mapping cars will highlight ideal pick-up and drop-off points as well as the best routes for riders and drivers.
The progress made by mapping cars will only accelerate in the coming years, McClendon says. "Especially with technologies like self-driving cars".