Uber hopes to appease cities with tool showing traffic patterns
San Francisco: Uber Technologies Inc. is hoping to win brownie points with some cities by opening up a small sample of its ridership data. The San Francisco ride-hailing company introduced a traffic dashboard called Uber Movement, saying the tool is designed to help city leaders, urban planners and civic communities.
The project is rolling out with traffic information curated by Uber’s data whizzes for three cities: Manila, Sydney and Washington. The company hopes it will cover dozens of cities by mid-February.
“By delivering these insights to cities, we can give back to the community,” said Andrew Salzberg, head of transportation policy at Uber.
However, Uber Movement doesn’t answer many of the questions officials have been asking. The website doesn’t provide details on individual trips, vehicles or passengers. Movement won’t enable regulators to figure out, for example, which drivers are illegally taking fares at the airport or working extended shifts. Uber said the data are anonymized on purpose to protect customers’ privacy.
New York City’s transportation regulator wants access to more granular data, which could let it analyze driver fatigue or illegal activity. The city held a public hearing on the matter last week. Uber and Lyft Inc. have resisted providing information on when and where passengers are dropped off, and they oppose proposed rules that would require them to do so.
Several of Uber’s international competitors took steps last month to make more of their data public. Easy Taxi, Grab and Le Taxi, which together cover more than 30 countries, are working with the World Bank to publish traffic information from their drivers as part of the Open Transport Partnership. It follows a project the World Bank launched last April compiling GPS coordinates from more than 500,000 Grab drivers in the Philippines to monitor traffic in the country.
Uber is positioning Movement as its version of Google Trends, which lets anyone analyze what the population is searching for online. Instead of providing street-level information, Uber Movement breaks each city into zones and shows the travel time between those sectors during various times of day.
City planners could use the dashboard to compare traffic at different times of the year or in certain parts of the city during events, showing, for instance, how a concert venue affects gridlock. “We fully intend to build this out over time,” said Jordan Gilbertson, product manager for Movement. Bloomberg