Despite the negative press over class action lawsuits and questionable tactics, Uber wants cities to know that it can be of benefit, not just to people in need of a ride from point A to point B, but also in shaping more efficient transportation. Uber's pitch is that its level of data collection is unmatched and can be of great benefit to municipal partners.
"To date, most cities have not had access to granular data describing the flows and trends of private traffic. The data provided by Uber will help policymakers and city planners develop a more detailed understanding of where people in the city need to go and how to improve traffic flows and congestion to get them there," Uber explains in blog post.
Uber's pitch convinced the city of Boston to join in what's being described as a "first-of-its-kind partnership" that will ultimately expand the city's ability to solve problems by leveraging the data Uber provides.
To ensure a level of privacy, Uber's effort will include anonymized trip-level data by ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA). This will allow Uber to provide Boston with timestamps, distance traveled during trips, duration of trips, and other data that policymakers and municipal workers can analyze.
As for how this information can be helpful, Uber says it can be used to determine if stoplights need to be altered to improve traffic flow, if there's a need for more (or less) parking spaces in a particular area, identifying where additional metro stops are needed, which potholes need to be filled, and more. In essence, Uber's grand plan is to create a series of smart cities, starting with Boston.