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Why Uber Is Opening Up a Treasure Trove of Data

by Alyssa Newcomb /
The Uber app displays on a smart phone cars available for a pick up in downtown Manhattan.Mary Altaffer / AP

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Uber is sitting on a treasure trove of data — and now the world's biggest ride-hailing app is sharing details about its trips on a new website.

No, that doesn't mean it's your Uber driver's rating of you or the details of your trips.

Instead, Uber is aggregating and anonymizing data as a way to help city planners — and ultimately, the public — plan around traffic congestion.

 The Uber app displays on a smart phone cars available for a pick up in downtown Manhattan. Mary Altaffer / AP

Related: Trump May Have Just Built His First Bridge to Silicon Valley

"Along the way, we’ve found that local leaders, urban planners, and civic communities are all working to crack their city’s commute and figure out how best to invest in new infrastructure," Jordan Gilbertson, a product manager, and Andrew Salzberg, Uber's head of transportation policy, wrote in a blog post.

Uber is already in 450 cities around the world. The idea is to create a resource to help city planners "make informed decisions about our cities," the post said.

Uber Movement would leverage data from the hundreds of thousands of Uber vehicles online at any given moment, allowing the site to understand traffic patterns over time.

The idea is then for Uber to have a reliable tool that will allow city planners to predict traffic hiccups over time and to ultimately create solutions to the problem.

"Cars have been in cities for 100-plus years, but the ability to track the pattern so specifically is much more recent," Karl Brauer, senior director at Kelley Blue Book, told NBC News. "There is a bunch of information being generated by a system, in this case, Uber. By analyzing that information, you can figure out how to make it more efficient."

While it's geared toward city planners, Uber said it plans to roll out Uber Movement access to the public "in the weeks ahead."

The Google-owned Waze app also offers a similar feature utility to drivers. After typing in a destination, drivers simply have to keep their app open, which will allow Waze to anonymously collect data about traffic flow. If users want to contribute even more, they can also share updates about accidents, construction or police speed traps.

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