Will Uber Shun Google Maps with $500M Investment in Global Mapping?

After raising $3.5 billion last month, Uber might be planning to shed some dead weight in the form of Google Maps. The famed map application from Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. may no longer feature on the Uber app, and may soon be replaced by Uber’s own home-grown version of global mapping.

The man behind Uber’s new project is actually the same person who ran Google Maps and help with the creation of Google Earth – Brian McClendon. He was hired by Uber last year to run their mapping program, and this is what he has to say:

“For over a decade, I helped lead that effort as the head of Google Maps. Today I lead Uber’s mapping efforts to ensure we can provide a safe, reliable ride — no matter where you are. To do that, Uber uses a mix of mapping technologies (including our own) to provide the underlying infrastructure for our apps.”

Uber’s move shows that they are gravitating away from depending on external technologies, specifically the most critical one that runs their business. Even though Google was actually an early investor in Uber, the two companies have been working independently on their mapping abilities for driverless cars.

This $500 million investment is not about mapping. It’s about proprietary technology that is at the heart of Uber’s business. With a presence in about 60 countries around the world and about 2 billion rides done, this is one area that Uber feels it must bring under its own control.

Considering that position, I think a $500k investment is well worth the money. Not that great for Google, but that’s the way the cab rolls, I guess.

Obviously, this isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will allow Uber to gradually wean itself away from its dependence on Google Maps. Besides, if they are able to concoct a proprietary technology, they may well see the product being licensed to other companies inside and outside their industry.

Currently, Google Maps is known to be the most reliable mapping application, but with someone like Brian McClendon himself spearheading the project, it’s definitely possible that Uber will create something that goes beyond Google Maps and serves its own purposes in a better way than a “customized” GMaps ever can.