There was a time when you had to scribble down handwritten directions or lug around an old dog-eared map if you wanted to know how to get from Point A and Point B — and avoid being lost along the way. Then came global positioning system (GPS) technology, first in the form of electronic mapping-and-directions systems installed in cars, and later in GPS applications for smartphones. So when Uber came along to shake up the transportation industry, it was no surprise that the ride-sharing industry it kickstarted did so by arming its legion of part-time drivers with Google Maps, the app designed to give users the most direct path to wherever they are going. But now it appears that Uber's getting into the mapping game itself.
Uber is reportedly sinking $500 million into an effort to get its own unique mapping system off the ground. The idea is to wean drivers off of Google Maps, which Uber says has become too costly to continue using. It plans to start by sending super-camera equipped cars around the U.S. and Mexico, and may eventually expand to other parts of the world.
The maps Uber generates itself are intended to make life easier for drivers and their passengers by providing real-time traffic information, helping to choose the best pick-up spots and routes. The technology is also expected to map rural areas where street signs aren't always available; Uber plans for its maps to be able to send directions to driverless cars.