Matthew HughesFormer TNW Reporter
Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.
Millions of Londoners use Uber on a daily basis to get from point A to point B. As each of these trips are tracked and logged by the app, Uber has managed to build an impressive treasure-trove of data, allowing them to optimize pick-up and drop-off points.
Now, it’s opening that data to city planners in the UK. Uber Movement is a free tool that lets urban planners access and analyze millions of anonymized trips, in order to make better decisions. The tool debuted in early 2017 in the United States, and now it’s getting its long-awaited UK launch.
Uber Movement essentially tells stories about previous travel conditions, allowing researchers to pinpoint peak hours, bottlenecks, and how journey times can be impacted by things like road closures and events. It shows, for example, how the closure of Tower Bridge in 2016 impacted routes and travel times.
The aim is to allow city planners to better consider road transport when planning major infrastructure reinvestments, or events that could be disruptive to transport.
Open data initiatives are nothing new. Governments have long opened up their data troves to the public, in order to improve transparency and help improve public services. However, it’s rare for a private company of Uber’s size and competitive position to do the same.
Uber says that under its new leadership, it wants to “be a better partner to city planners and regulators.” That might be true, but I can’t help feeling there’s a bit of self-interest here. A major part of Uber’s value proposition is its speed and convenience, and it wants to have its voice heard in anything that might impact that.
The UK version of Uber Movement is available from today. Although its data currently only reflects its London market, the company eventually plans to roll it out in other cities, including its other major UK markets of Manchester and Birmingham.
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