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AZ Tech Beat | September 21, 2017

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Uber partners with UA to boost mapping research for self-driving cars, donates $25,000

Uber partners with UA to boost mapping research for self-driving cars, donates $25,000
Tishin Donkersley

Google isn’t the only entity that is building out their driverless technology. The University of Arizona (UA) has been conducting experiments on their Cognitive and Autonomous Test, or CAT, vehicle on campus and developing mapping technology for driverless cars. 

Today, the UA and Governor Doug Ducey announced a strategic partnership between the UA and the on-demand ride-hailing giant Uber where they donated $25,000 to help the engineers and researchers at the College of Optical Science department continue research and development in the optics space for mapping and safety.

In a letter to the UA staff as reported by The Verge, “Uber and the UA have agreed to work together on educational, workforce development, and research efforts in optics, engineering, and education for the benefit of both parties and for that of Southern Arizona.”

UA President Ann Weaver Hart said, “The UA’s role in Arizona’s innovation and knowledge economy is absolutely vital. Our achievements in advanced optics and imaging technologies in particular will help Uber on the ground in Arizona. I’m impressed with Uber’s vision and commitment to this partnership.”

This isn’t Uber’s first ride seeking out mapless technology. In March, they acquired mapping and local search company deCarta. This partnership with the UA will make Tucson the hub for Uber’s state-of-the-art mapping test vehicles, according to a statement by the Office of Governor Ducey.

“It’s clear that Arizona welcomes innovation,” said Brian McClendon, vice president of advanced technologies for Uber. “We’re still in the early days of what’s possible – and I look forward to working with Arizona to make the next step of that journey a reality.”

RELATED: UofA’s driverless CAT vehicle takes students for a spin

In June, Uber opened the Center for Excellence in Phoenix with the mission to “build and develop support services for new Uber products; and to drive continuous improvement and innovation on behalf of the Uber Community” according to a company statement. The center will bring 300 jobs to the Valley.

Governor Ducey said about the partnership, “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. 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.”

Read more about tech companies expanding to Arizona and creating jobs here.