Uber has entered an economic development partnership with the University of Arizona to develop the company’s mapping test-vehicles, making it the latest step in Uber’s efforts to shore up its logistics technology.
“Our achievements in advanced optics and imaging technologies in particular will help Uber on the ground in Arizona,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart in a statement.
The ride-sharing titan has been trying to wean itself off Google’s mapping technology in recent months. Its only two public acquisitions have been the deCarta mapping company in March and parts of Bing maps, along with 100 employees, from Microsoft in June. Over the summer, Uber also poached Google’s head of maps to manage its self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh, and made a failed $3 billion-plus bid for Here, Nokia’s cloud-based mapping service.
Independence from Google, which could potentially become Uber’s rival in the self-driving car market, isn’t Uber’s only motive for enlarging its holdings of map technology. CEO Travis Kalanick has said that the longer Uber has been in a city, the shorter residents are willing to wait for a cab ride. A more seamless map system would only strengthen Uber’s dominance over cabs and rival ride-sharing services.
As a part of the agreement, Uber made a $25,000 donation to the College of Optical Sciences, and the governor of Arizona issued an executive order that encouraged the testing of self-driving cars on selected University of Arizona campuses.