Uber will use high-res satellite imagery to improve pickups

"God View" is becoming more literal.

Uber will soon use high-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe to help drivers find passengers. According to a press release from DigitalGlobe, the ridesharing company will use its satellites "to help identify and improve pickup and drop-off locations." Uber recently bought mapping company deCarta and is using Microsoft's Bing vehicle imagery tech, so the DigitalGlobe deal will further extend its mapping efforts.

DigitalGlobe was the company that convinced the US government to lift its image resolution restrictions on private satellites. Shortly after, it launched its WorldView-3 constellation that can detect images as small as 12 inches (30cm) across. It can also scan short-wave infrared frequencies, letting it see forest fires through smoke that would block other satellites, for instance.

There's no mention of Uber's ambitious self-driving vehicles in relation to the high-resolution imagery, but mapping is clearly key to the program. And unlike Google Maps or other sat views, DigitalGlobe can provide current maps with more detail than other private systems.

Uber has been criticized for misusing its "God View" to secretly follow clients, but now lets you opt out of any tracking. It's unlikely that the DigitalGlobe tech could be used to track anyone, given that you'd need to rent a satellite for a fixed period, which is bound to cost a fortune. With Uber's recent, possibly illegal efforts to dig up dirt on lawyers suing it, however, the company's shown it's not afraid to explore questionable options.