Cab aggregator Uber may be working on a plan to move to community-owned OpenStreetMap (OSM), which allows users to edit and update online maps of cities, according to a report by Business Standard.
The company has reportedly readied plans to contribute to the open source mapping application and will soon roll out the initiative in India. Developers think this is an indication of Uber wanting to move away from Google Maps.
"We have selected the Delhi-National Capital Region as the first city for this initiative. We do not plan to make any large-scale, machine-generated edits for this project," Suneel Kaw, Maps Product Manager, Uber, was quoted as saying.
The company has informed the community through a post on the developer forum for OSM that it will submit updates to correct issues such as road directionality and turn restrictions, which are not updated on these maps.
Open source maps latter seem to be cost-effective and in some cases, more reliable because of user inputs from around the world.
OSM is a crowdsourced online project that follows the same model as Wikipedia where anyone can create and update information based on his or her knowledge.
Because of their cost effectiveness, these maps are used by academics as well as flourishing start-ups who cannot afford to purchase enterprise-level mapping services like Google Maps for their products.
Uber will be making edits through a small team based in Palo Alto, California, which will be assisted by the Uber team in Delhi. The team will address three specific issues -- turn restriction, road directionality, and road geometry.
"The team will be using the available data sources in the JOSM — a free software desktop editing tool for OpenStreetMap geodata created in Java —for its corrections and validations. We will share the profiles of our editors on Uber's OSM page soon. The edits will be made according to the organised editing best practices and India guidelines," Kaw was quoted as saying.
According to the report, Uber is already using these open source maps internally for deriving driving time and distance estimates to do a more accurate fare calculation and optimising driver and rider matches.
Since 2015, Uber has been acquiring small map-related start-ups such as Bing's mapping assets in a bid to develop its own mapping prowess. The company is also working on its autonomous car project, which will require high-quality street mapping to take off.