Uber has a developed a reputation for butting heads with the city governments in which it operates. But through new tool called Movement, the company hopes to help city planners make transportation more efficient, the company announced on Sunday.
A website that includes data urban developers can use to understand which sections of a city need expanded transportation infrastructure, Movement provides insights like how long it takes to get from one area of a city to another. The ride-hailing company says it will be inviting agencies and researchers to access its data in the weeks ahead.
"Uber trips occur across such wide swaths of a city that we're able to estimate, based on analyzing a lot of trips over time, how quickly a car can get from one zone to another," the company wrote in a blog post announcing the tool.
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While Uber already shares some data with select cities, Movement will be the company's first publicly available tool. The website is currently live, with data from three cities that have participated in Uber's beta program for Movement: Washington D.C., Sydney, and Manila. Eventually, the company hopes to launch the website in all of the markets where it provides ride-hailing services, and expects to have data for dozens of markets in the coming months.
Agencies will be able to use Movement to view trip durations based on criteria such as specific days of the week or hours of the day. This, Uber hopes, will help them to examine traffic patterns and monitor how infrastructure changes like road closures can impact congestion. Routinely tracking such behavior could potentially help city planners make decisions about where to place new bus lanes to compensate for shutdown subway lines during renovation periods, Uber cited as an example.
"There was no really easy way to get this information even though it's a really basic building block," says Andrew Salzberg, Uber's head of transportation policy.
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The news comes amidst Uber's battle with New York City over rules that would require it and other ride-hailing services to share specific times and locations for each drop off. Regulators intend to use the data to better monitor driver hours, while Uber argues that doing so would pose privacy risks, as Bloomberg notes. Uber says Movement is designed to automatically filter out information that could potentially be used to trace individual trips.
Although the data is gathered solely from Uber's car services, the company says it validated the data to ensure it's representative of the city's regular activity. The company views Movement's launch as a first step, leaving it up to the organizations using it to decide how and when it could be useful.