Uber is sending out mapping cars to Australian streets

Uber will be emulating its longtime partner Google by sending out cars with cameras to harvest mapping data in Australia.

The ridesharing service has traditionally used Google Maps for its app, but announced in August that it would, at a reported cost of US$500 million, start harvesting its own mapping data in order to reduce its dependence on a third-party product.

On Monday the company announced its mapping cars would hit Australian streets for the first time. Gold Coast residents this week will be the first area to see the fitted-out vehicles, with other localities to be mapped in the coming weeks.

“We’re investing now in Australia because it is one of our most popular regions, and as we have grown the need for high-quality and accurate maps underlying the Uber experience has become even more important,” said an Uber Australia spokesperson.

The mapping will be performed by existing Uber vehicles with mapping devices installed to save putting extra cars on the road.

“Of course, we take the privacy of our riders very seriously. If you catch a ride with one of these, know that the devices do not retain any imagery at or around your initial pick-up or final drop-off locations,” said Uber Maps head of product Manik Gupta.

Gupta added that the data would help the company “improve core elements of the Uber experience” such as routing and identifying the best spots for dropping off and picking up passengers.

For its mapping project, Uber poached former Google Maps head Brian McClendon in June 2015. While Google and Uber have been co-operative in the past, with the former even investing in the latter, in recent times they have become rivals in developing autonomous vehicles.

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