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(Pocket-lint) - Cab giant Uber is apparently near to closing a deal with mapping company deCarta. While it claims this will help it to fine tune its mapping tech for driver positioning there could be a lot more to it.

Uber has reportedly opened a robotics facility in Pittsburgh which has the aim of creating self-driving cars. Uber also announced a partnership with Carnegie Melon University to work in an Advanced Technologies Centre on autonomous cars.

While Google in an investor in Uber, after dropping $285 million, it's also reportedly working on a competing service to Uber. So by creating a self-driving car service, before Google can, makes sense.

Uber is currently valued at around $40 billion yet this is going to be its first major acquisition. Uber has received its huge amounts of investment thanks to the unique potential it offers with its worldwide network of drivers. From mapping roads to making drop-offs, it could even be a danger to Amazon if it were to offer delivery services similar to Addison Lee.

Uber pulls map data from Google Maps, and without it, Uber would need to develop its own technology or resort to using alternatives like MapQuest or Apple Maps. The problem is they are not as widely heralded as Google Maps, and Google's reported ride-sharing app will undoubtedly use Google Maps. So moving away makes sense for Uber.

Imagine a network of self-driving cars controlled by an app that allowed people to deliver goods, get lifts and keep mapping systems updated almost in real-time. Uber is a very real threat to the major companies, and knows it. Buying deCarta is just the beginning for Uber.

READ: Uber announces self-driving car project, as Google prepares to launch Uber-like app

Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 4 March 2015.