Uber just moved another step closer to realizing its goal of driverless cars. The ride hailing company announced a new research partnership with the University of Arizona focused on mapping and optics, both of which are essential to self-driving vehicles.
The partnership will allow Uber employees to work with researchers at the university specializing in lens design “to improve the imagery of what we capture and use to build out mapping and our safety features,” Uber’s Brian McClendon told the Associated Press. The company will also test its mapping vehicles in Tuscon and is donating $25,000 to the university’s College of Optical Sciences as part of the project.
News of the partnership coincided with an executive order from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey “supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona,” according to the governor’s office.
“Our administration has been keenly focused on helping 21st-century companies like Uber grow their footprint and succeed in our state, and today’s announcement is the latest signal that it’s working,” Ducey said in a statement.
“All Arizonans stand to benefit from embracing new technologies –- especially when it means new jobs, new economic development, new research opportunities and increased public safety and transportation options for our state.
Mapping technology is key to driverless cars and it’s no secret Uber has been focused on building out its own mapping division. The company acquired San Jose mapping startup deCarta earlier this year and Uber later acquired some of the team and technology behind Bing Maps from Microsoft.
Uber was also one of the companies rumored to be in a bidding war for Nokia’s HERE Maps, which was eventually acquired by a group of German automakers, including Audi and BMW.