The first step has been taken to bring Uber to Tauranga.
A small fleet of cars with 360-degree cameras mounted on top have begun mapping Tauranga streets and traffic patterns.
The street imagery captured by these cameras will lay the groundwork for the launch of Uber ridesharing at the end of the year.
"Our mapping devices will help map core elements of the Uber experience like the best routes for riders and drivers and identify street segments that are better suited for pick-ups and drop-offs," Richard Menzies, Uber New Zealand general manager, said.
Existing maps were a good start but Uber preferred to do its own mapping and had hired five people in Tauranga to drive around mapping every street, avenue and road.
The mapping technology would help future drivers optimise their routes.
Mr Menzies said there was a market for Uber in Tauranga.
He said some suburbs were under served by public transport and many were only accessible by car so getting around was not always easy.
"Likewise, finding flexible work isn't always possible with the local unemployment rate above 7 per cent."
Access to safe and affordable transport would also lower the amount of drink-driving, Mr Menzies said.
Uber mapping driver Ali McAnulty drove 260km through Te Puna, Omokoroa and Minden yesterday.
"The big camera on top records everything it needs and I just drive a mapped-out route through parts of Tauranga I have never seen. It's really just gorgeous here."
She said she was one of five cars mapping the city and it would take between 10 to 12 working days, weather dependent.
As a mobile hairdresser Ms McAnulty had flexible hours and applied for the driving job on Seek.
She said if Uber came to Tauranga it would not phase her much, but her daughter and niece, who were in their 20s, were incredibly excited.
Tauranga Taxis marketing manager Bruce Rainey said if Uber came to town at the end of the year it would just be another competitor in the already highly competitive taxi industry.
"We will just wait and see what happens."
Many of his customers were repeat customers and while Uber's cheaper prices might hold some sway, Tauranga Taxis would have more drivers and operated 24/7.
WHAT IS UBER
- Riders can hire a private driver to take them to their destination via an app on their phone.
- Drivers can register and use their own car to drive people around.