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March 15, 2018

Could data be the oil Uber needs to ride the streets of London?

Uber aims to return to the driving seat as it launches new initiative to get TfL on board.

By April Slattery

Uber aims to better its reputation further in the UK’s capital, as it launches its new initiative ‘Uber Movement’ to better share data.

The new initiative will share data gathered from trips its drivers make across London, which is a free tool using Uber’s anonymous data to help city planners better organise travel and make decisions about their city.

Anybody across the city will be able to compare past travel conditions from various parts of the city, looking back at days, weeks, months and even years. This will enable users to see how journey times in different parts of London are impacted by events or road closures.

The aim of the initiative is to meet the requests from the city’s regulating body Transport for London (TfL), reassuring it that Uber is ‘fit and proper’ to operate in London unlike TfL stated.

In order to sway the minds of the regulator to give the ride hailing company another chance, it has pulled out all the stops to ensure it is trusted to continue operating in the City. Uber has made changes to its business model, such as enhanced safety features for drivers and also bettering working conditions for drivers.

In a blog post Uber said: “Under Uber’s new leadership we want to be a better partner to city planners and regulators, so we hope this data will give them valuable insights for the future.”

An example of how the tool works is using past data from things such as the closure of roads or major works, the app can then apply route knowledge from before and amend this for when picking up riders.Could data be the oil Uber needs to ride the streets of London?

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Uber’s announcement coincides with TfL’s plea for transport companies to be more open with their data, stating open data will help boost traffic infrastructure and systems across the city.

“Transport data is an important part of our national data infrastructure. It is vital that this data infrastructure is as open as possible and unlocks innovation and creates economic and social value,” Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said. “It is great to see large companies like Uber making their data more open so that more people can use it to make better decisions. We look forward to other large companies following their lead on data over the coming years, and taking the next step of openly licensing the data to support broader innovation and value.”

The company has said the plan is only in its early stages, with an extension expected within the coming months. This will include launching in other major cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, whilst constantly updating the tool so it is as useful as possible for city planners.

David Leam, London First’s Head of Infrastructure Policy, said: “Uber Movement is an exciting new tool that will help cities like London better understand congestion and develop new solutions to tackle it. London businesses will welcome this initiative as a sign that Uber is committed to working in closer collaboration with city and transport planners to keep London moving.”

New safety measures in place by the ride-hailing app
TfL believes data is key to an effective transport system
The legal battle continues

Alongside its open data announcement, Uber has also revealed new measures that have been put in place to ensure the utmost safety for its passengers travelling in the Capital.

Changes have been made to the app that lets riders know that TfL has licenced their driver, as well as providing information such as their name, photo and car registration. This ensures that only TfL licensed Uber drivers are picking up passengers, boosting the safety for both riders and drivers.

The ride hailing company is currently fighting to keep its 40,000 drivers employed within London, after a series of unfortunate events for the company leading to their licence loss in the capital. Uber is still in the midst of a legal process, which is to be finalised in the coming months.

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