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Transport / Mass transit

Uber is sharing its data to help city governments improve their traffic management

In an effort to wash away the bad taste of a (now removed) data post outlining the stats of the world’s one night stands, Uber has announced plans to use its data for good: to “build smarter cities”.

This, thankfully, doesn’t mean a Uber-built dystopia. But it means Uber is planning to share anonymised data about rides with “municipal partners”, so governments can improve transport in their cities.

They’ve started with Boston, and as of this month are supplying the city with anonymised information on ride lengths, routes and the zipcodes of pickup and dropoff locations. Once collated, the data should give the city a glimpse into how private transit travels through the city. According to the blogpost, the data could, among other things, help officials decide “which potholes to fill in first”.

Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh, said in a statement that the partnership will “help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighbourhoods and allow us to think smarter”. 

It’s a clever move for Uber – and not just because it lends legitimacy to a company that’s clashing with city governments around the world. Cities have actually been putting pressure on Uber to release trip data for some time now. According to Forbes, Uber executives have previously claimed the data constitutes “trade secrets”. But now, by offering the cities the data on their own terms, Uber could avoid supplying more specific, non-anonymised information to city governments. Sneaky. 


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