Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Uber Movement

Recently, Uber unveiled its new data platform, Movement, which provides anonymous aggregated data on road network performance, travel times, and so on. Linda Poon at CityLab offers some commentary on this new tool, which she feels was released to mend ties with cities that have demanded data from Uber in the past:
Uber isn’t releasing all the data collected over the last six years the company has been in operation. But its new tool, Movement, lets cities in on traffic patterns based on millions of trips taken over time. (The data released is anonymous.) The tool, which is currently available in Boston, Manila, Sydney, and Washington, D.C., tracks how long it takes to get from one point to another, and how that changes depending on the time of the day, day of the week, and factors like road shutdowns or city-wide events. It also allows users to look at patterns over a period of time.

That’s only one of the many ways Andrew Salzberg, Uber’s head of transportation, imagines cities can take advantage of the tool. It’s all part of the company’s efforts to improve its relationship with cities: In fact, Salzberg says that creating the product involved collaborating with city planners to figure out what they need.

It isn’t quite the highly coveted data that cities want from Uber and the like. New York City, along with other local governments, is more interested in knowing when and where passengers get picked and dropped off—what Mayor Bill de Blasio has demanded and Uber has refused to deliver, on grounds of privacy protection for its riders.
The notion of privacy versus transparency for users has gotten a lot more attention and discussion in the age of social media, and opinions on the matter tend to differ (unsurprisingly) by generation. As a researcher and data scientist (if I'm feeling very generous toward myself, I'll use that title), privacy and data security are very important to me and something I think about daily. More data and potentially features will be released in the future, so it will be interesting to see how this tool evolves as opinions on privacy vs. transparency shift.

Chicago data is not yet available, but perhaps it will help inspire some new taglines for the various Chicagoland highways.

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