Uber just showed how committed it is to mapping the planet. The ridesharing outfit has started rolling out map cars in Singapore, putting the vehicles on five major continents (sorry, Antarctica, you'll have to wait). As in other cases, the cartographic cars are really driver rides with mapping tech on top to collect data based on real trips. Privacy shouldn't be an issue, Uber says -- they won't keep imagery from the end points of your trip, and what data they do collect won't be made public.
The company is still a long way off from having comprehensive mapping data of its own. Outside of North America, it only has mapping hardware in one country per continent. All the same, it's an important step. As much as Uber depends on Google for its regular mapping, it has a strong incentive to collect as much of its own data as possible. At a minimum, this means maps that reflect the harder-to-pinpoint aspects of routes, such as the exact side of a building for a drop-off. And Uber isn't shy about how much this will help its self-driving car plans -- especially in Singapore, which has embraced autonomous tech relatively quickly. What Uber invests now could pay tremendous dividends when robotic ridesharing is commonplace.