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Uber is bringing its urban planning tool Uber Movement to London

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Uber says its aggregated data ‘could help inform transport policy and future investments’

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Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Uber is launching its urban planning tool Uber Movement in London. The software, which the ride-hailing company first unveiled last year, gives city planners and members of the public access to anonymous data from millions of Uber trips in specific cities. This means that anyone can use Movement to compare current and past travel conditions, finding out how long specific journeys are likely to take at different times of the year.

Uber Movement is part of the company’s wider plan to mollify regulators by sharing valuable data with them after years of abrasive business tactics. This is particularly relevant in London, where the local transport agency, TfL, announced it would not renew Uber’s license to operate last September. Uber is currently appealing that decision, with a hearing set for June. The company also recently made changes to its app in London, making clearer that its drivers are licensed by TfL.

Speaking about the launch of Uber Movement, Uber’s head of UK cities, Fred Jones, said that under the company’s new leadership it wants to be a “better partner to city planners and regulators” and give them “valuable insights for the future.” One example Jones gives is data showing the impact of travel time caused by the closure of Tower Bridge in 2016. This information can be useful when similar projects are planned in future, the company notes.

Image: Uber

In the past, Uber has been criticized for tracking user location even when they weren’t using the app. (It subsequently backtracked after the backlash and allowed users to “opt out.”) Given these events, the company states in an FAQ that: “All data shared through Movement adheres to Uber’s privacy policy, and at no point will Movement provide a means for partners to access individual driver or rider details in any way, shape or form.”

Uber said it will launch the Uber Movement in other cities across the UK including in Manchester and Birmingham over the next few months. In a statement emailed to The Verge, a TfL spokesperson said: “We welcome any move that has the potential to provide a greater insight into how people move around London.”