Many of Uber's competitors, including Hailo, Gett and Kabbee, already offer the same functionality. Regardless, it's a notable update for Uber, which has long been known as an instant-only ride-hailing service. The feature also represents another attack on the traditional taxi and minicab industry, which have long held up advance bookings as a differentiator.
An Uber car dedicated to street mapping. Credit: Uber
Today, Uber is also announcing an expansion of its mapping initiative. To improve its knowledge of London roads, the company will be driving its own vehicles with a variety of sensors strapped to the roof. Similar cars were launched in the US last October, equipped with 3D spherical cameras to capture their surroundings. Uber says it will use the resulting data to "improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers," namely through more accurate maps and traffic information. If all goes to plan, the same cars will be deployed in other UK cities "over the coming weeks and months."
We suspect the data will come in handy should Uber ever choose to bring its self-driving chauffeurs across the Atlantic Ocean.