Uber and Google Sign 4 Year Agreement on Google Maps

This is one of those surprised/not surprised things.

Uber Technologies Inc. announced that it has entered into a Google master agreement under which the ride-hailing company will get access to Google Maps platform rides and deliveries services.

I mean today Uber uses Google Maps with their app, even on iOS. This is basically a continuation of the previous agreement with some changes that better align with how Uber does business. Rather than number of requests that Uber makes for Google Maps services, it is based on billable trips that are booked using Uber, a much more manageable deal for Uber. Last year, it came out that Uber paid Google $58 million over the past 3 years for access to Google Maps. This quote really strikes me as bold:

“We do not believe that an alternative mapping solution exists that can provide the global functionality that we require to offer our platform in all of the markets in which we operate. We do not control all mapping functions employed by our platform or Drivers using our platform, and it is possible that such mapping functions may not be reliable.”

For as much money Uber has invested in mapping, they don’t believe their technology is reliable enough to roll out to the public. That is mapping services in a nutshell, when you business is dependent on the best routing and addressing, those businesses pick Google every time. All that time and effort to build a mapping platform and they still pay another company tens of millions of dollars.

I’ve read so much about how Uber is about ready to release their own mapping platform run on OSM. But in the end the business requires the best mapping platform and routing services and clearly nobody has come close to Google in this regard. Google Maps is not only the standard but almost a requirement anymore.

SpatialTau v2.8 – Buying Your Own Mapping Company

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deCarta has a soft spot for many of us. We saw them hit highs with Yahoo! and Google and then lows when they were dumped. Just 2 weeks ago I talked with Marc Prioleau about deCarta on my Hangout. Last night though the news hit that Uber was buying deCarta.

Uber, the popular ride-sharing startup, is acquiring the mapping and search startup deCarta for an unspecified amount, Mashable has learned.

The deal, which closes later this week, is for deCarta’s technology and talent. Founded in 1996, the San Jose startup provides a software platform that focuses on location-based features, including mapping, local search and turn-by-turn navigation.

So deCarta is now owned by Uber. Uber told Mashable:
“A lot of the functionality that makes the Uber app so reliable, affordable and seamless is based on mapping technologies,” an Uber spokesperson told Mashable. “With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps –- for example UberPOOL, the way we compute ETAs, and others – and make the Uber experience even better for our users.”

Makes total sense right? The whole point we use Uber and similar services is because they get a car to us in a couple minutes. Marc Prioleau wrote up his thoughts on the acquisition and came to the conclusion there is much to like about deCarta for Uber. I personally think deCarta helps the backend of Uber improve. Marc’s totally right about that (read what he wrote, it’s worth it). But on the consumer side, the one you and I see when we use the Uber.app I still don’t think they’ll replace Google Maps with deCarta. Marc has a theory that they may want to have a different look to their maps than what Google and Apple have but I honestly think consumers hate change and having Google as the visualization makes perfect sense for Uber.

We’ve seen companies like Mapbox do custom tile sets for clients but these projects are the exception to the rule. On iOS and Android, Apple and Google control the maps and most developers just use what is given them by default. The backend system though, those that improve how Uber operates clearly will be given more support. That said, it isn’t like Uber fails to get their cars to their customers.

I have no idea what Uber uses today, it could be some Google based application, some custom code created by them or a consultant or maybe even Esri. But having more staff that understand maps completely will only assist Uber in improving their service. Clearly every little thing helps Uber compete against taxis and Lyft so it’s probably money well spent. That and deCarta gets a nice landing spot. Wins all around!