Uber is collecting street images for its own maps of the UK cities in which it operates, starting with London.
Its mapping cars are being sent out on to the capital’s roads from today.
The firm said while existing maps were “a good starting point” it hoped to be able to identify the best pick-up and drop-off points from its own images.
It said it may “incidentally” collect personal information, such as photos of people and licence plates, but would not be sharing any of the data online.
However, its terms go on to state that it may share its mapping data with numerous third parties including vendors, consultants, marketing partners and law enforcement agencies.
The lift-sharing firm plans to extend its mapping activities to other British cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. It has been carrying out mapping in the US since 2015.
“Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations,” it said in a blog post.
“Our efforts are similar to what other companies including Apple and TomTom are already doing around the world.”
Uber added that it was “doubling down” its investment in maps.
Former head of Google Maps Brian McClendon is now a vice president at Uber, and the firm recently hired former Apple Maps and Tesla maps engineer Bill Chen, reports The Information (subscription).
There are currently 23 mapping-related jobs advertised on the firm’s website.
“Uber is in the race to get driverless cars on the road first,” said technology writer and broadcaster Kate Bevan.
“Thus far, they’ve relied on Google’s maps, but they’re now in competition with Google to own driverless cars, so it makes sense for them to disentangle from Google.
“Also, with their own maps, they’ll own all of the data on them: Uber, like Google, is as much a data company as a service provider.”