Better late than never. That’s certainly what Uber is trying to say now that it has released a veritable treasure trove of data that ought to help city governments and city planners improve traffic conditions and commutes. Maybe 2017 is the year that the ridesharing company and government regulators finally learn to get along.
On Sunday, the San Francisco-based company made available a tome of data based upon countless rides taken by its millions of customers each and every day. Launched on a new website called “Uber Movement,” the data includes “detailed historical insights [that] make it possible to measure the impact of road improvements, major events, new transit lines, and more.”
While the data has technically been available since Uber first launched in 2009, aggregating all this information has been no small feat. For the last nine months, a team of about 10 engineers has devoted itself to putting together information on three major cities — Manila, Philippines, Sydney, Australia, and Washington, DC. Dozens more cities are expected to be added to Movement before the site is made publicly available in February. When it’s complete, Movement will contain data for every city in which Uber is active, beginning in early 2016.
“We don’t manage streets. We don’t plan infrastructure,” said Andrew Salzberg, Uber’s chief of transportation policy. “So why have this stuff bottled up when it can provide immense value to the cities we’re working in?” Noting that the company is collecting a “constant stream of data,” Salzberg added, “Some of this data is treated as digital exhaust, when in fact it’s immensely valuable.”
Uber isn’t the only company to be sharing what it knows with governments. Waze has a “Connected Citizens” program that provides city officials with data they need in exchange for early notice of construction and road closures to add to its maps. And Strava, the cycling app, lets cities know where residents like to bike.
But when it comes to certain valuable information, it’s unclear just how much Uber, or any of these companies, are willing to divulge at this point.
“I think cities need to be very clear about what they want,” Gabe Klein, a former head of the Detroit Department of Transportation, told the Washington Post.