Uber working on mapping and safety technology at University of Arizona

R&D will also support Uber's development of self-driving cars

Uber is turning to the University of Arizona for help in developing its mapping and automotive safety technology.

Uber plans to work with experts in lens design at the university to improve the imagery it captures, it said on Tuesday. The joint effort will also support Uber's development of self-driving cars and related technologies.

The partnership shows an apparent effort by Uber to work in collaboration with outside talent as the company pushes deeper into developing new cutting-edge technologies.

But Uber has a slightly blemished record when it comes to partnering with research institutions. A similar relationship with Carnegie Mellon University left CMU bereft of numerous researchers and scientists, after Uber poached them away, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For now, Uber has the blessing of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who said the university would become home to Uber's mapping test vehicles.

The governor also signed an executive order supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in on some public roads in Arizona.

Uber will donate US$25,000 to the university's College of Optical Sciences to support the work.

Uber has already shown a desire to improve its mapping technology and lessen its reliance on mapping data provided by outside companies like Google and Apple. In June, it said it was hiring roughly 100 Microsoft employees who had worked on image collection and data analysis.

Earlier this year, Uber bought deCarta, whose mapping and location services have been used in cars made by GM and Ford.

Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh -- staffed by many researchers hired away from Carnegie Mellon -- is also developing self-driving car technology and related vehicle safety and mapping systems.

The development of a fully autonomous car could still be years away for Uber.

Activity in the area is heating up, as other technology companies and traditional automakers move aggressively to incorporate autonomous technologies into their cars, if not develop fully self-driving cars.

Google is now testing its self-driving cars around its headquarters in Mountain View, California, and Apple is said to be seeking a facility to test its self-driving car.

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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