Uber Shifts Policy, Will Share Data With Local Governments

Uber is Finally Giving The Public a Glimpse of Its Stunning Trove of Transit Data

Uber is extending an olive branch to local governments with a new tool for traffic analysis, in an attempt to quell tensions over an issue — data sharing — that has been a source of contention in several of the ride-hailing app’s biggest markets. 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.

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. Uber said the data is anonymised on purpose to protect customers’ privacy.

According to Route 50,

The dedicated website uses anonymized, aggregated Uber data to create a snapshot of vehicle travel times—you might say, movement—across customized date ranges, and along particular routes, in a given city. The site is geared toward urban planners, policy wonks, and city officials but anyone can request access. Eventually, Uber says it will be open to the public.

Uber has historically been reluctant to share its data with governments. The company resisted a provision in New York City that requires it to submit detailed summaries of its trips to the Taxi and Limousine Commission every month and is currently battling efforts by the city to make those disclosures even more granular. Uber recently defeated a public records request in Seattle that would have forced it and Lyft to reveal certain ride data submitted to the city each quarter, arguing successfully in court that the information constituted “trade secrets.” Last April, Uber released a “transparency report” that seemed designed to outrage its riders at data requests from governments.

Uber says Movement came out of conversations on how the company could work better with cities, and has been in the works for the last nine months. For the project’s debut, Uber is highlighting past analyses it’s done of commutes in Manila during the December 2015 holidays and of peak travel times in Sydney, Australia, using this type of data.

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled late last year that ridesharing companies Rasier, LLC (a subsidiary of Uber Technologies, Inc.) and Lyft, Inc. do not have to conduct fingerprint-based background checks to operate in Maryland, but instead must comply with a set of requirements under an alternative background check process. Both companies applied for a waiver of the fingerprinting requirements, arguing that their existing processes were more comprehensive.

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