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Uber Sign (Photo : Getty )

Uber has reportedly spent $500 million on a new mapping project so the ride-sharing company can free itself from Google Maps. The company announced that the new project involves mapping cars that collect street images to improve the experience of Uber customers. Its mapping system would especially help foreign customers because Uber drivers often have had to call people who ordered the taxi service, to get their exact location.

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The news was reported by the Financial Times during the weekend. Google has also recently increased the cost of its Maps service, which has lowered Uber's profit margins.

 Uber has not confirmed that it has invested half a billion dollars in road maps. However, Uber's ex-Google Maps engineer Brian McClendon stated that his new company is "doubling down" on its spending on mapping. Its new street maps will improve issues such as the best pick-up/drop-off points and taxi routes.

Uber is using mapping vehicles in the United States and Mexico. It also has plans to add similar vehicles to other countries in the near future.

Uber has bought some mapping tech and hired Microsoft engineers to improve its maps, according to Tech Crunch. It has also teamed up with navigation system companies like Digital Globe and TomTom.

The San Francisco-based company also has about $12 billion in funding it has received from private equity firm TPG, China's web services company Baidu, and Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. Several other investors are ready to spend big money on the company.  

In May Uber posted the first photos of its road tests of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the city of Pittsburg. Its improved mapping system could expedite a fleet of self-driving cars.     

Uber's early success was based on hardware and software that already existed such as cars and smartphones. However, it is now spending more on research and development (R&D) to boost long-term sales growth.

 The American transportation company now operates in over 60 countries and provides customers with over two billion rides.

In related news, Uber has announced it will sell its China business to rival Didi Chuxing after their expensive price wars, according to Bloomberg. Didi will reportedly invest $1 billion in the ride-sharing company's global company.

Uber shared that big losses in China have slowed down world-wide growth. It has also reportedly delayed sales of its first public stocks.

Here's Uber's self-driving car: