Uber is Back in Austin! (Oh, They're Just Doing Some Mapping)
Ride-hailing company Uber has confirmed several of the company’s mapping cars have hit Austin streets. The cars are part of the company’s plans to create its own mapping tool, and to relinquish its reliance on other, more established mapping services.
The cars come from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, a program founded in February last year. Uber writes this of the program:
The partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff, and students — both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) — to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.
The mapping cars are also gathering data that the company will put toward development of its self-driving cars, according to an Uber spokesperson. According to a Financial Times report, the ride-hailing giant recently started mapping in U.S. and Mexico as part of a $500 million effort to mitigate the Uber app's dependence on Google Maps.
You can see a version of the company's autonomous vehicle here. The Ford Fusion hybrids currently mapping in Austin, however, do have human drivers behind the wheel. The program of mapping is part of a larger
The ride-hailing company left Austin along with rival business Lyft back in May, when voters rejected the companies' rules in favor of fingerprint requirements passed by the Austin City Council.
An Uber spokesperson did not respond to the question of whether Uber fleets would be returning to Austin.