Uber has started rolling out a fleet of mapmaking cars similar to Google's -- but why?
Uber made some news earlier this year with the acquisition to buy some of Bing’s mapping tech as well as some staff — but nobody knew why.
Now it appears that Uber is making a big move to improve the service and efficiency of its vehicles and drivers, and to do that they need excellent maps, according to a BuzzFeed report.
Back in March, Uber bought deCarte, a mapping startup, a few months before it purchased 100 of Bing’s employees and some of its mapping assets. In the months following, Uber has reportedly been hiring people to driver Uber mapping cars to capture 3D images of local streets similar to Google Street View, with the help of Microsoft’s mapping tech.
One of these cars was spotted in a small town in Kentucky and posted to social media by an Uber driver. But why is the company making this move?
Apparently, it’s to improve estimated arrival times, as well as improve the routes drivers use to get from point A to point B.
Drivers already use a program that is essentially combination of Google Maps and a proprietary routing algorithm, but apparently this isn’t quite good enough for Uber. They still think the ETAs aren’t quite good enough nor are the routes entirely optimal, and are hoping this will help solve that.
One thing that in particular throws typical mapping applications for a loop are difficult intersections that are often choked with traffic, so Uber is hoping this new method could help drivers avoid these areas altogether.
It’s just a pilot program right now, so these vehicles will only been seen in a few select areas. One fleet is being deployed near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh — where Uber’s Advanced Technology Centers are based — and another at the University of Arizona, another place with a strong Uber presence.
This effort is also aimed at improving one other exciting technology advance: autonomous cars. This data could help them inform both the routing and safety needs necessary for such an autonomous car.