More news (it comes in daily) on the emergence of Transportation Service Providers – this time a data-sharing project between the public (Washington, DC) and private (Uber) through an intermediary (NACTO).  This suggests TSPs may be some mix of both.  Maybe.  (Check the last paragraph for where this is going.)
From Wired:

Today, the curb represents the most contested space in the urban world. Cyclists pedal through bike lanes, cars battle for parking spots. Taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts pick up and drop off riders. Delivery trucks unload Amazon Prime boxes and buses pull in and out of stops. People on foot scuttle through it all, trying not to get hit.

The people running cities believe there should be a place for all these things.  … But before city governments can start reallocating that space (too long given over to private, parked cars), they need information.

“The autonomous age is upon us but most cities really don’t even have the network password to log in,” says Janette Sadik-Khan, a former New York City transportation commissioner and the chair of National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).  …

You know who does have that data? Private sector companies like Uber, which collect piles of information on who goes where, and when. And historically, they’ve been loath to let it until the sunlight. …  

Until now, perhaps. In January, NACTO quietly rolled out a data-sharing project called SharedStreets. And last week, it landed a very important private sector partner, in Uber. The ride-hail company has started using the project as an intermediary, to share sensitive pick-up and drop-off data for Washington, DC.

DC is pleased. “Data today is worth more than gold, oil and cryptocurrency,” says Ernest Chrappah, the director of the city’s Department of For-Hire Vehicles, which oversees taxi, limos, and ride-hail companies in the district. …

Indeed, SharedStreets may be exactly what both sides need. First, it will establish data standards for curbs, traffic speeds, and transit data, formats that can be shared between companies, agencies, even across cities. (No more, My computer can’t open that file.) Now, there’s a common language for curb data and maps, with agreed-upon locations for curb cuts and intersections.

SharedStreets

SharedStreets’ second key advantage is that it serves as a non-profit, non-political third party, a data-holding buffer between occasionally adversarial cities and private companies. That’s key for the companies that have hesitated to share data, fearing less cautious of technically savvy users could compromise their customers’ privacy, or reveal their various secret sauces, like routing algorithms. …

So Uber is working with SharedStreets to build a tool that will process and aggregate private companies’ data, put it in the correct format, and leave it completely anonymized. …

This is nice timing for Uber. The ride-hail company is in the midst of a PR glow-up, eight months after dumping former controversial CEO Travis Kalanick in favor of the ultraapologetic Dara Khosrowshahi. With a spate of announcements this week—about SharedStreets, its acquisition of a city-friendly bike-share company, and a mobile ticketing integration with public transit—Uber is working to prove it can be an excellent partner for cities.

SharedStreets’ success is not quite guaranteed. The platform has plenty of competitors, like Coord from Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, and Ford’s Transportation Mobility Cloud. These big dogs want to be the operating system for the modern city, with everyone—governments, companies like Uber and FedEx—feeding their info into their all-knowing, number-crunching transportation platforms. For now, though, cities and private companies say they are attracted to SharedStreets’ non-profit status. With its connection to National Association of City Transportation Officials, it feels safe. Now the project just needs to execute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *