Uber bets on autonomous vehicles as they invest $500 million in mapping technology

Your next Uber drive could be a robot

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File photo: Uber app being used on an Apple iPhone 5. Picture by: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Uber has decided to reduce their reliance on Google Maps by investing in their own mapping technology, a move that appears to be the first step towards autonomous cars.

The ride-share company has decided that they want to invest in new technology which will offer them more detail than is currently available to them through Google, and have the financial muscle to make it happen after raising billions from investors at the start of June.

The "global mapping project", as it's being described by The Financial Times, has already begun, with the company making their first moves in the United States and Mexico, where they have expanded their mapping efforts. 

According to The Verge, this is the first and crucial step towards using autonomous cars in the service, as they need more detailed maps that will show "traffic patterns, locations of doors or other potential pickup locations" to the driverless vehicles. 

However, they face a challenge from Google themselves in this regard, as the internet giant has been mapping the globe for over a decade already, and have been experimenting with autonomous vehicles of their own.

Uber has hired Brian McClendon, whose Keyhole Inc. company was bought by Google for their Google Earth project back in 2004, as well as made moves to purchase or partner with other mapping companies in recent months in an effort to move away from Google Maps, who have also raised their prices for use of their software.

According to the Financial Times, Uber has been valued at approximately $62.5 billion making it the most valuable private company in Silicon Valley. A spate of investment from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund and the Chinese search engine Baidu has helped to contribute to that valuation, as the company moves to adapt the challenge presented by autonomous vehicles.

Via The Verge