Anyone who wants to know how long it takes to drive from Chinatown to Cupertino during rush hour, without submitting to the ordeal themselves, can now turn to Uber Movement, the San Francisco-based ride-hailing app’s public data portal that taps info from Uber drivers’ daily trips to reveal traffic patterns from point A to point Anywhere.
(That trip took one hour and three minutes on average, by the way.)
Launched in 2017, Uber framed Movement as a civic service of sorts.
“We’ve gotten consistent feedback from cities we partner with that access to our aggregated data will inform decisions about how to adapt existing infrastructure,” the company notes.
As Hoodline reports, this is a potentially useful tool for cities who have long coveted access to Uber’s daily batches of GPS data about where its drivers went and how they got there.
“[Cities] typically rely on these five-year-old data sets that cost a lot of money,” Alison Wylie, a former State Department coordinator who know oversees transportation and mobility policy at Uber, explained to Hoodline.
By contrast, Uber’s white paper for Movement boasts:
Since all Uber driver-partners use a smartphone to handle the logistics of their trips, anonymized and aggregated travel data can be used to measure a region’s transportation infrastructure. This approach is particularly well-adapted to deliver accurate data where it is most scarce: smaller roads and arterials with limited commercial traffic and where fixed sensor infrastructure is a costly and inefficient investment.
It is somewhat unnerving to be reminded that ride-hailing companies, like Lyft and Uber, know where you’ve been when you use their service.
Although the site launched over a year ago it’s only now available for San Francisco and surrounding counties.
Users select a date or range of dates (the most recent goes up to October 2017) and a time of day or daily average, then simply click any two locations on a map and see how long that trip took by Uber on average.
The info is mostly a novelty (albeit a neat one) for the average person. City planners and academics are the ones might be most interested in diving into that data.
However, the data does come with some limitations, including the obvious fact that it represents only Uber drivers, most of whom are from out of town and who, as passengers users can testify, don’t always know the city as well as native driver.
Some days not enough trips are made between certain points to come up with meaningful data. The tool measures location via either census tracts or the “traffic analysis zones” used by planners, which can vary wildly in size.
Still, anyone curious about the flow of bumpers around the Bay Area can access the data for themselves. It’s free to the public, but an Uber account is needed to log in.