One of the world’s leading smartphone-based carsharing and taxi services companies has confirmed that it is buying a leading digital mapping specialist, in order to help its rapidly growing ride-hailing service and lessen its dependence on navigation services from Google and Apple. Uber Technologies has confirmed that it is acquiring deCarta in a deal that will provide Uber’s drivers with another way to find passengers summoning rides on its smartphone application, and deliver them to their destinations more quickly. DeCarta’s technology also may help Uber provide more accurate estimates about the arrival times of its cars, which can now be ordered in more than 250 cities in 50 countries worldwide. The deCarta deal follows a recent announcement that Uber has formed a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to work on developing driverless cars, which rely on accurate mapping systems. There is also industry speculation that Google is planning a rival ride-hailing service that would draw upon the driverless cars that it has been building and testing for the past few years.
Uber has raised nearly US$6bn since its inception six years ago, including a US$258m injection from Google’s venture capital arm in 2013. The company has funneled most of its funding into expanding its workforce to more than 2,000 people worldwide, and building its ride-hailing network internationally. Before the purchase of deCarta for an undisclosed sum, Uber had only participated in a few small-scale acquisitions. Although deCarta is not as well known to consumers as Google Maps, its technology is extensively used by industry, including General Motors, which uses its maps for the in-car OnStar telematics system. Smartphone makers, Samsung Electronics and BlackBerry Inc also use deCarta’s technology. Uber says it plans to blend deCarta’s technology with the Google and Apple maps that it already uses. A company statement said, “With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps; and make the Uber experience even better for our users.”