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Uber now has mapping cars on five continents in its bid to overtake Google Maps

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Singapore is the latest city to get mapping cars


Uber announced today that it would begin generating its own 3D maps of Singapore. This was the latest in a blizzard of news surrounding the ride-hail company’s increased investment in mapping, the goals of which appear to be twofold: outpace Google, and lay the groundwork for Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars.

To map Singapore, Uber says it will be attaching cameras and mapping equipment to vehicles that are already being used to drive on the ride-sharing platform. That way Uber says it won’t be adding any new cars to the road. Better maps help the company gain an improved understanding of traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations, while also helping to facilitate the coming transition to driverless vehicles.

“Over the past decade, mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started,” said Manik Gupta, head of product, in a blog post. “That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars.”

Uber’s customers have been known to be hyper aware of their own privacy as the company seeks to expand its efforts for more precise data. Some users pushed back against Uber’s request for permission to collect location data even when they are not using the app. As such, the company said that its mapping vehicles won’t retain any imagery at or around pick-up or final drop-off locations. “There is no plan to make the imagery or other data collected available to the public,” Gupta said.

Uber relies heavily on Google Maps, but recent reports and hiring announcements suggest the company is interested in creating its own maps that can stand on their own. Last year, it was reported that Uber planned to spend $500 million on an ambitious global mapping project. And the company has been snatching up some of Google’s brightest mapping talent, including most recently the engineer who helped perfect the search engine’s ranking algorithm. (Not to be left out, Uber’s main rival Lyft just hired the guy who pioneered Street View at Google Maps.)

Uber has mapping cars on the road in the US, Mexico, Canada, the UK, South Africa, and Australia. Singapore is the first city in Southeast Asia.