Yesterday’s news that Uber rides will show up as a transportation option in Google Maps makes the fundamental difference between the popular ride-hailing app and traditional taxi services clear.
To recap: Google Maps will show Uber as a transportation option—alongside walking and public transit routes—for people who already have Uber installed on their phones. When users select the Uber option, they will be brought directly into the Uber app.
What that makes crystal clear, though, is that Uber is a technology company first, a transportation company second.
That’s hardly a major insight, considering Uber relies on its app to coordinate rides between its legion of drivers and those in need of a lift. While some cab companies have tried to create their own apps to make calling for a ride easy, that’s an add-on to their traditional business—putting cars on the street to lug people around.
That much has always been obvious. But the big advantage Uber has isn’t just the fact that its entire infrastructure is technology-first. It’s also deeply embedded in the high-tech industry.
Google invested more than $250 million in Uber in 2013, accounting for 86 percent of Google’s annual venture funds, according to CNET.
With friends in such high places, traditional transportation companies will always play catch-up on the technology front. And Uber has proven to be the company setting the pace to which those companies need to catch up. Uber isn’t a company that uses tech well to provide its service. It sees itself fundamentally as a technology company, and the broader tech industry has welcomed it.
Uber is active in 56 cities in North America, including Boston.