Uber plans more technology investments to map Indian roads

Venkatesh Ganesh Bengaluru | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 23, 2016

Manik Gupta, Head of Products, Maps, Uber

In emerging markets, Uber is facing the major challenge of mapping locations   -  AP

To better estimate cab-arrival timings

Cab aggregtaor Uber plans to invest more in technology that will map more streets in the country, with an intent to help passengers estimate arrival times better, thereby increasing the efficiency of its fleet .

While Uber is confronting many challenges, - — from regulatory to connectivity, in emerging markets it is facing the major challenge of ‘mapping’ locations. Talking to a select gathering of journalists, Manik Gupta, Head of Products, Maps, Uber, said the company is upping its ante when it comes to maps, to ensure it can help passengers estimate cab-arrival times more accurately.

“Mapping data is still not good enough for us, and we will overlay our own software stack,” added Gupta.

Gupta has previously worked with Google in developing maps technology. He, however, did not quantify the investments. Last year, Uber had committed to $1-billion worth investments in India and these are part of that commitment, officials said.

Currently, Uber uses Google Maps and integrates its own APIs, Application Programming Interfaces (pieces of software codes that help you perform a task).

Tech challenge

For Uber, maps is one of the most crucial technological challenges as it empowers all its underlying transactions. In India, Uber is trying to solve the challenges of users having to constantly answer calls from drivers for giving directions to pick-up points, calculating accurate arrival of cabs, and better route utilisation for uberPOOL.

Unlike in India, in developed countries, the mapping challenge has been addressed by the private sector, which has made investments and standardised address formats, — which is not the case in India.

Local partnerships

While Uber officials have maintained that the company will continue to use Google Maps, recently it has made some acquisitions and is looking to partner with others. “In India, while we will continue to leverage Google Maps, we are also eyeing partnerships with local companies to help us navigate better,” said Gupta.

Maps in India are seeing roadblocks, notably from the government, who cite security concerns. According to a recent draft, anybody who wants to use, publish or own maps or collect geospatial data, needs to apply for a licence.

Unlike other countries where Uber is using mapping devices mounted on car roofs, in India, Gupta said nothing is on the cards till the rules are clear.

For Uber, India is the largest market outside the US and accounts for 12 per cent of its overall rides.

Published on December 23, 2016
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