Uber starts offering ridesharing data to cities

It's promising a wealth of info, but it's also reluctant to share everything.

Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cities and taxi companies frequently portray Uber as a threat, but the ridesharing outfit is now promising to give something back. It's launching a website, Uber Movement, that will offer some transportation data that cities can use to improve their transit systems. It'll reveal the historical time it takes to travel between neighborhoods, helping local governments that want to understand how major events and road closures affect traffic.

The info stems from Boston, Manila, Sydney and Washington DC, but data from dozens of additional cities should be available soon.

It's a sharp contrast with Uber's usual hesitance to share information. When it does, it's for publicity moves like its ill-fated 'God View' app. As the Washington Post points out, though, this isn't necessarily a selfless gesture. To some extent, it's about winning over cities that frequently try to ban or regulate Uber beyond what it's willing to accept: don't hold us back, we're performing a valuable public service. The company is still embroiled in a fight with New York City over the urban hub's demand for drop-off times and other details that could reveal excessive work hours, and this might draw attention away from the problem.

Still, Movement could be important. It's rare that cities can get such a large, ready-made data set -- let's just hope that it's the start of greater openness rather than a one-off move.