Known mostly for its cab service app and the hubbub it caused in Europe after conventional taxi companies felt threatened by the company’s alternative and tech-savvy approach, it looks like Uber Technologies is now planning to take over Google’s map-making turf. It was revealed earlier this year that the transportation firm plans to strike a deal with Microsoft and acquire navigation technology — a move that ended up with the Redmond giant investing $137 million instead –, Uber rolled out its fleet of mapping vehicles on the streets of U.S.
The fleet of camera equipped cars is very similar to Google’s Street View in terms of functionality. After all, the mapping process involves a specific technology that will prove useful not only for navigation, but also for future autonomous cars. Even so, Uber wants to improve the system and is trying to develop a method that is capable of calculating real-time ETAs while avoiding crowded intersections or streets that get congested much too often. We’re talking about major accuracy powered by sophisticated science.
Florence, Kentucky, is the first area Uber decided to map, but the time consuming and sometimes tedious process of street image capturing will have to spread across America at a faster pace — and later on at a global scale — if the company wants to challenge Google and convince users they should switch services. Buzzfeed reports that Uber rolled out another fleet of mapping vehicles close to its Carnegie Mellon University facility in Pittsburgh and another one near the University of Arizona, as both institutes have partnerships with Uber. What’s odd is the absence of Bing Maps technology, substituted by in-house developed systems.
It’s safe to say that Uber is probably doing this to improve their own network and the current services offered by their drivers — which have received mostly positive reviews from customers and are gaining strong momentum in urban environments –, as well as for the perspective of an autonomous vehicle. Believe it or not, right now there’s a genuine race going on between major automobile manufacturers like Tesla and tech giants like Google to develop a self-driving car. Could Uber claim a share of this domain as well? It remains to be seen, but the future might make the steering wheel a thing of the past.
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