Uber is on course to make its first public acquisition with San Jose-based mapping tech startup deCarta in its headlights.
DeCarta provides a range of location and map services, including in-map search, location APIs, turn-by-turn navigation and more. A deal to buy the startup was first reported by Mashable, but Uber has confirmed that it is near to closing an undisclosed deal.
An Uber representative told TechCrunch that the acquisition will help “fine-tune” the company’s services:
A lot of the functionality that makes the Uber app so reliable, affordable and seamless is based on mapping technologies. With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps – for example UberPOOL, the way we compute ETAs, and others – and make the Uber experience even better for our users.
There might just be more to it too.
Aside from being Uber’s first public acquisition — a fact that is surprising when you consider the company’s $40 billion valuation and the billions upon billions that it has raised from investors — the deal is notable because it could have the potential to lessen Uber’s reliance on Google, and Google Maps in particular.
Google is an investor in Uber — courtesy of its largest investment ever — but the two companies are believed to have a fairly tense relationship. That was particularly evident last month when we reported that Uber had opened a robotics research facility in Pittsburgh aimed at developing self-driving cars — yes, the very same concept that Google has been working on for some time. (Added to that, there have been unsubstantiated rumors that Google is developing its own Uber rival.)
Beyond just making vehicles, Uber is using its mountains of cash to build all the technologies for its driver-less cars itself, as we reported:
Uber will be developing the core technology, the vehicles, and associated infrastructure at this Pittsburgh facility, according to sources. They have already hired a number of employees and made moves to outfit them with software, including a multi-hundred-thousand dollar investment in third-party engineering workstations.
Given that backdrop, buying a company in the maps space makes absolute sense, and would provide both long- and short-term value to its business.
DeCarta, which was founded in 1996 and raised over $55 million in funding, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber that continues to work with customers. Thirty of the company’s 40 staff, including CEO and President Kim Fennell, will transition over following completion of the acquisition.
Note: The original version of this article has been update after Uber told us that this is not its first acquisition. CEO Travis Kalanick told the audience at our Disrupt event in September 2014 that the company had not made any acquisitions — the company did complete an acquihire in Amsterdam in December, but it seems that there is one other.