Taxi-hailing company Uber is looking to expand its transport empire by making a small but significant change. Currently the company makes use of Google Maps as an overlay for its drivers to get around cities, but according to the company, Uber will start to map its own way.

Uber will apparently set aside $500m to invest in its own mapping service – fresh after receiving $3.5 billion from investors. A significant portion of the investment will also be used to research its own driverless cars.

Uber’s Brian McClendon explained that while Google Maps was a good starting point for the company, it needs to develop its own maps that will suit its unique purpose.

“Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. 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,” he said in a statement.

When Uber has its own maps, the company will be able to better tell where people are requesting pick-ups from. As an example, when South Africa saw a spate of attacks against Uber drivers at Gautrain stations, had Uber’s new mapping tech been active at the time, safe pick-up points could have been indicated by the Uber app.

The company also explained that it has already begun mapping some parts of the United States, but with more investment it will be expanding to other regions.

“I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can’t even imagine today,” McClendon concluded.

[Image – Uber]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.