Apple donates to LGBTQ youth org T-Mobile's $50 unlimited home internet Stimulus check vote Friday? GameStop stock rallies Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead trailer Post Malone to headline Pokemon Day

Uber to roll out mapping vehicles in Arizona

The ride-hailing company partners with the University of Arizona to boost its mapping and safety technology, leading to more speculation about self-driving cars.

"We're still in the early days of what's possible," says Brian McClendon (far right), Uber's vice president of advanced technologies. Uber

Uber is growing its presence in Arizona. The ride-hailing company announced Tuesday that it's partnering with the University of Arizona to focus on research for its mapping and safety technology.

This means that Tucson residents could soon start seeing Uber's mapping test vehicles out on the road. These cars look like normal automobiles except that they have a futuristic contraption affixed to the roof, which the company says is for mapping.

"We're still in the early days of what's possible," said Uber's vice president of advanced technologies, Brian McClendon, in a statement. "I look forward to working with Arizona to make the next step of that journey a reality."

Uber, which is a service that pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, has a similar partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. These collaborations have led to speculation that the company may also be using these institutions to work on a self-driving car. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has touted autonomous vehicles in the past and even said they could one day replace Uber's human drivers.

Google was one of the first companies to begin working on self-driving cars. Over the last five years, Google has incrementally highlighted its progress, and in December it finally unveiled its first finished prototype. Since Google's original announcement, other companies, like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, have also come up with self-driving car projects. Google has said it plans to bring autonomous cars to market by 2020.

Arizona lawmakers have been wooing tech companies to the state over the past couple of years with tax breaks and exemptions. So Uber joins other high-tech players that have opened up shop there, including Apple, GM and several smaller startups. In June, Uber opened its Center of Excellence in Phoenix, which deals with customer support for drivers and passengers.

"Our administration has been keenly focused on helping 21st-century companies like Uber grow their footprint and succeed in our state," Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement. "Today's announcement is the latest signal that it's working."

Opening research labs may seem like a costly endeavor, but Uber has the cash to do it. The ride-hailing service is currently the highest-valued venture-backed company in the world with a valuation of more than $50 billion, by some estimates.