Uber is hoping to smooth over some of its problems with city taxi regulators by offering them trip data for its customers, The Washington Post reported.
On Tuesday (Jan. 13), Uber said in its company blog that Boston will be the first city to get the data, which includes the time each trip began, how long it took, the zip codes in which it began and ended, and the miles traveled. That data will be useful for urban planning purposes -- down to the level of where potholes are, Uber said -- but will still protect the privacy of its passengers, the cab-hailing company said.
It will also be useful to Uber in its efforts to deal with regulators, though it may not satisfy them. By devising its own national data-sharing proposal, Uber is setting its own terms for a policy that likely would have come anyway. If this data turns out to be as valuable to cities as Uber suggests, the company may have also just found another way to argue its case in cities that have remained hostile to the company, The Post reported.
But in two of Uber's most high-profile clashes with U.S. regulators, it's not likely to help much. In New York City, where an administrative court last week ordered Uber to suspend operations in five of its six New York City dispatch bases, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) wants significantly more data than Uber wants to provide, according to Forbes.
Among other things, the NYC TLC wants driver information for each trip, which is useful for gauging how many hours taxi drivers are working at a time. The TLC also wants more specific data on pick-ups and destinations. A TLC spokesman said that along with the administrative suspensions, Uber is currently operating in the Big Apple under a temporary license.
And in California, where Uber has already been providing zip-code-level pick-up and destination data, the state's Public Utilities Commission has gone to court to get more specific data, which it said Uber agreed to do when the commission approved its ride-sharing service in 2013. Competitors Lyft and Sidecar have made their statistics available to the commission, Reuters reported in December.
Potential penalties in California range from fines to a revocation of Uber's permit to operate in its home state, though analysts told Reuters that revocation is unlikely.
That still poses less of a problem for Uber than some cities outside the U.S. do. In Seoul, South Korea, Uber-like service Kakao Taxi has just gotten a green light to tap into the city's real-time traffic data feed and plans to start service by April, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, officials have put a bounty on Uber drivers and indicted Uber founder Travis Kalanick in December for violating a public transport law.