Grab taps data from driver community in new mapping service

Southeast Asian ride-sharing operator is looking to license GrabMaps, which it says captures details that are not on conventional maps such as back alleys and side streets, drawing data from delivery orders and rides provided by its driver network.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Grab Holdings has launched its own mapping platform it hopes to license to companies that need location-based services, such as logistics operators and government agencies. The Southeast Asian ride-sharing operator also is aiming to move its ecosystem to the platform by next quarter, so it no longer needs paid map services from third-party providers. 

Called GrabMaps, the mapping service initially was built to be used internally and fulfil its need for a hyperlocal application, Grab said in statement Wednesday. The company manages a network of driver- and merchant-partners that provide a range of services via its app, including food and grocery delivery, parcel delivery, rides, fintech and payment services, and telemedicine. It operates in eight Southeast Asian markets, which include Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 

With the launch of GrabMaps, it now wants to tap a $1 billion a year addressable market in the region for mapping and location-based services. It is targeting organisations that use location-based services in some form, including technology services providers, telcos, logistics operators, and government agencies. 

Offered as a business-to-business (B2B) service, GrabMaps can be licensed based on three main data layers--places, road and traffic, and imagery. These currently offer more than 33 million POIs (places of interest) across Southeast Asia, with another 4 million to be added by year-end, road networks integrated with data such as turn restrictions, tolls, and speed limits, and street-level imagery that provide wide to 360-degree views from positions along roads. 

GrabMaps also would be available to support map-making tools, enabling enterprise customers to use it to build their own maps. Grab said its map-making camera Kartacam was part of such tools and currently was undergoing pilot trials in Paris, Johannesburg, Dubai, Seattle. 

Grab added that it planned to release APIs (application programming interface) this year as well as mobile SDKs (software development kits) in 2023. These would enable developers to enhance or build their own applications and geolocation capabilities by tapping GrabMaps technology, such routing, search, traffic, and navigation features, it said.

Grab also was targeting to have GrabMaps fully power its own network by next quarter, so it would be fully self-sufficient and not need to rely on paid map and location-based services from third-party providers. The vendor uses OpenStreetMap as its base layer map via an open database licence. 

GrabMaps currently provides location-based data and services to seven of the eight markets in which Grab operates, supporting all its service verticals across these markets. The mapping platform processes 800 billion API calls each month.

Citing its benchmark study against another third-party mapping platform, Grab said its mapping service performed at four-times lower error rate, during which the API did not return an accurate response, and 10-times lower latency based on API response time.

It said GrabMaps drew data from orders and rides served daily, including real-time feedback from drivers such as road closures and business address changes. Its network of driver- and delivery-partners also provide data, including POIs, street imagery, street names, and traffic signs in return for addition income. 

Grab's co-founder Tan Hooi Ling said: "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."

Commercialising the mapping technology also part of the company's efforts to drive its enterprise service offerings, Tan said. 


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