Uber putting Toronto on the map

Ride-sharing service to improve driver and rider experience by mapping cities of the world

Beginning Sept. 19, ride-sharing service Uber is mapping the city. Toronto is the second Canadian city to undergo this process, with Edmonton being the first.

An Uber ATC mapping car on the streets of Toronto
An Uber ATC mapping car patrols the streets of Toronto. (Eden Debebe/Toronto ObServer)

A press release by Uber says special ATC (Advanced Technologies Center) cars are “outfitted with a variety of sensors including radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras to map details of the environment.”

With over 65 of the ATC cars on the road, the company is looking to improve the way passengers are picked up and dropped off through these new maps.

Janelle Newson, a frequent user of the app, is excited for what this new development could mean.

“I always have to account for  waiting an extra 5 minutes on top of the estimated driver arrival time to call and coordinate on a pickup spot,” says Newson. “The pin drop on my GPS location just isn’t enough. If I’m on a busy street corner, heavy traffic will force me to walk to a more secluded street. Organizing that with a driver on the phone is such a hassle, it’d be nice to have it already done on the app.”

Having previously relied on Google Maps, Uber is now looking for a level of detail not currently being provided by the internet giant.

“Existing maps are a good starting point, but some information isn’t that relevant to Uber,” said Manik Gupta, Uber’s head of mapping products, in the press release.

New hires on this ambitious project include former Google Maps head Brian McClendon, an imagery collection team from Microsoft’s Bing, and the acquisition of deCarta, mapping company behind GM’s OnStar service, according to the Financial Times.

The $500-million project, in addition to improving service in the short term, will also be aiding in Uber’s future integration of automated cars.

The option to select Self-Driving Uber is already being offered to users in Pittsburgh, home of Uber’s ATC. In a press release, Uber founder Anthony Levandowski says, “We believe ride sharing will be a mix — with services provided by both drivers and Self-Driving Ubers.”