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GrabMaps seeks to provide more accurate mapping in Southeast Asia

Gelo Gonzales
GrabMaps seeks to provide more accurate mapping in Southeast Asia

GRABMAPS. Image shows several screens from the Grab app making use of GrabMaps

Image from Grab

Grab is completing its move to use its own mapping technology, which it says has 4 times lower the error rate than a leading third-party mapping provider

MANILA, Philippines – Grab on Wednesday, June 8, announced that it would complete its move to use its own mapping technology called GrabMaps by Q3 2022. It will stop using paid third-party service providers, but will continue to use open-source OpenStreetMap as its base layer map via an Open Database License. Currently, Grab said that 7 out of the 8 countries it operates in Southeast Asia already rely on GrabMaps. 

Grab expressed full confidence in its shift to its own mapping technology, promising traveling efficiency improvements. GrabMaps, the company said, has 4 times lower the error rate, and 10 times lower latency (a measure of how fast the mapping platform can respond to a request such as pinning a location or updating a driver’s location) compared to a leading third-party mapping provider.

Grab said that the ease of finding the right point-of-interest or location for transport bookings improved by 3 percentage points on average in countries that have moved completely to GrabMaps. The estimated travel time also improved in accuracy by 1 percentage point regionally or by 7.8 percentage points in some countries. 

GrabMaps GIF demonstrates the increasing density of streets mapped from 2019 to 2020 in Jakarta, Indonesia. GIF from GrabMaps

Grab’s co-founder Tan Hooi Ling explained that they have more detailed maps, including smaller streets and alleys, thanks in part to their driver and delivery partners. “Grab has always sought to build innovative tech that addresses Southeast Asia’s hyperlocal needs and GrabMaps is a great example of that. 

The back alleys and narrow side streets common across Southeast Asia cities often don’t show up on conventional maps, but are navigated by our driver and delivery partners every day. We’ve invested to turn this intelligence into a competitive advantage, allowing us to serve our users and partners with a great experience, at the same time driving efficiency and cost-savings for the business. We’re very proud that soon we will be fully self-powered by our own mapping and location-based technology.” 

GrabMaps draws its map data from orders and rides its Grab transport and delivery services provide, which it says, includes real-time feedback from partners on road closures, business address changes, and more. 

Screen shows apps for Grab drivers that let them contribute map data or street-level imagery to GrabMaps for a reward

Aside from being utilized by Grab services, GrabMaps will also be offered as a B2B (business-to-business) product. Companies can license map data from Grab which includes about 33 million points-of-interest across Southeast Asia, and data on road networks that includes turn restrictions, tolls, and speed limits. 

Grab will also offer GrabMaps API (application programming interface) and (SDK) mobile software development kits in late 2022, and 2023, respectively, for developers that want to use GrabMaps-powered features on their own apps. 

Grab is also piloting a mapmaking tool for street-level imagery called Kartacam with partner companies in Paris, Johannesburg, Dubai, and Seattle. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.