Uber’s become a very successful business. In 2015 it was valued at $50 billion, though there was a lot of dispute over that figure. More recently, it has been valued at $62.5 billion according to the Financial Times and $68 billion according to Bloomberg. It has become so successful though, that it can now afford its own version of Google Maps.
Uber customers outside the US have had problems with Google Maps. The latter can continue to get their location wrong and result in the ultimate call for directions. Google Maps has also raised prices. That cuts in to Uber’s profits so the company decided to come up with its own mapping service.
To develop this service Uber has brought on the architect of Google Earth and ex-Google Maps engineer, Brian McClendon. They’ve also hired over a 100 Microsoft employees over last year, specifically employees that worked on Bing’s image collection service, 3D aerial and street footage etc.
According to the Financial Times, Uber has over $13.5 billion in funding from places like Saudia Arabia’s foreign wealth fund and private equity group TPG. Hence, it can afford to throw money at something as lavish as a personal mapping system. This is usually reserved for the big boys like Apple and Google. Uber may set a new precedent. And who knows? Maybe it’ll motivate rival services to do the same.
“The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping.”
-Brian McClendon (former Google Maps Engineer)
The new mapping service will be tailoured to Uber’s needs. It’ll feature incoming data from company cars and customers. This feedback loop will allow the service to inevitably get better over time. It’ll also come in handy once the company’s self driving cars arrive.
The entire service will ultimately become much more efficient. Just imagine a car arriving exactly at your door or at a side entrance you want to be picked up from. It’ll also cut out the call for directions permanently.
Uber Settles Dispute With Didi Chuxing
Uber has also settled a dispute with Chinese taxi app Didi Chuxing. It has been struggling to make a profit in China for over two years now in spite of its partnership with Baidu, the Chinese Search Engine. It loses $1 billion a year and Didi dominates the Chinese market with 87% of the market share. Rivalry had forced both companies to subsidize their rides and their fierce competition wasn’t doing either any good so they compromised. Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick will join Didi’s board of directors and Didi’s CEO, Cheng Wei, will join Uber’s. Didi Chuxing will buy Uber’s business in the country as well as its data and brand, however Uber China will still be known as such. In return, Didi Chuxing will invest $1 billion in Uber’s global company.
This decision will no doubt, help Uber concentrate on its loftier goals like the maps application. The company is profitable in the US and Canada but is having trouble in other developing markets. China will help add stability to its operations in Asia.