Amit Singhal, Google’s former Head of Google Search who left the company in February 2016 has just joined Uber as senior vice president of engineering to lead its Maps and Marketplace unit.
— Amit Singhal (@theamitsinghal) January 20, 2017
Amit is not the first Googler to join Uber. The ride-hailing company has already poached two high-level executives from Google Maps: Brian McClendon ex Head of entire Google’s mapping unit and Manik Gupta, the head of Google Maps product division.
It’s not a surprise that Uber is investing a lot in spatial data, as it’s one of the biggest location-based service companies world-wide. The quality of maps, addressing and positioning is a key to deliver a high quality service and when scaling the business up the company cannot afford to be fully dependent on Google Maps API. It’s important also in the context of Uber’s autonomous taxi project which requires top quality 3D mapping data that Google is not willing to share.
Two years ago Uber showed the first signs that it wants to become independent from Google by singing a deal with TomTom. The integration of data from various data sources is much more difficult than it sounds (Apple Maps problems is the clear proof for that statement) and today the company still relies mainly on Google Maps.
At the same time Uber is building its own mapping solution. In 2015 the company acquired mapping cars unit from Bing Maps and additionally some of its cars are equipped with special cameras to gather data source for map making process. Last year Uber reportedly spent around $500 million on building its own maps.
All these proves that mapping data are a key to build a sustainable business. Fortunately for the map making industry, it starts to be clear to everyone.