Uber has signed a deal with the city of Boston to share ride data, which it says will provide planners with new information on growth, traffic congestion, public transport provision and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s likely to be the first in a series of collaborations with municipal authorities.
The company will share anonymized trip-level data with the city by ZIP Code Tabulation Area, which is the way the US Census graphically represents ZIP codes. The information will include the date and time the trip began, where the trip began and ended, the distance travelled and the duration.
Uber says it will also offer the city technical support to interpret the data and support Vision Zero, the multi-national road safety scheme, along with other transport initiatives.
Boston’s Mayor, Martin J. Walsh, says: “In Boston, data is driving our conversations, our policy-making and how we envision the future of our city. We are using data to change the way we deliver services and we welcome the opportunity to add to our resources.”
The data provided by Uber will be used to feed into decisions in areas including traffic planning, congestion reduction, flow of people across the city, disaster and event planning, zoning changes and parking provision.
Uber makes a point of including a quote from Jules Polonetsky, the Director and Co-Chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, in its release saying:
“Local regulators often demand and receive granular trip records from taxi and car service providers. It’s great to see Uber taking a more privacy friendly approach by providing ZIP code level records, which can be just as useful for city planning purposes but which help maintain individual privacy.”
It’s worth noting that Uber is currently clashing with the city authorities in New York over its refusal to share trip data – specifically where passengers are picked up and dropped off – with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Even more pertinently, Uber is being sued in California by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, over its refusal to share ride data. The CPUC wants access to that data to monitor the effect of new services on traffic flow, one of the issue’s this new deal with Boston will cover.