The extraordinary rise of Uber has transformed the ride-hail industry and in some cities, including New York, it has contributed to increased congestion. Now, Uber, in a move that was met with derision by critics, says it wants to help solve some of the problems it has helped cause.
The company announced today that it would spend $10 million to help cities develop more efficient transportation policies and reduce congestion and vehicle emissions.
The money will be given out over the next three years as part of a campaign by Uber to support efforts around the world to get more people to leave their personal cars at home and take greener alternatives such as car pools, public transit and bikes. To that end, some of the money will be used to advocate for congestion pricing plans, which charge drivers for entering the busiest neighborhoods at peak traffic times.
Uber, which has long guarded data collected by its vehicles, will also release data on the speeds traveled on individual streets to more cities to help them better assess traffic conditions and manage congestion. The campaign will give $250,000 to SharedStreets, a transportation data-sharing project, to develop ways to publicly share data from Uber and other private technology companies. Separately, Uber has also released some of its data on pickups and drop-offs as part of another effort to help cities re-imagine the use of curb space that is usually reserved for parking.
“As more people have come to rely on Uber, our technology has become an important part of the transportation fabric of cities,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive officer, wrote in a blog post announcing the campaign. “With that comes a responsibility: we recognize we need to step up and support cities that take bold steps to solve their transportation problems. We are in a unique position to have a meaningful and positive impact on the communities we serve across the globe — a responsibility we don’t take lightly.”
But some critics, including taxi owners and drivers, pointed out that Uber was a major reason congestion has gotten worse in many cities. Last month, New York became the first U.S. city to halt new vehicle licenses for ride-hailing services, whose vehicles often drive around empty in between passengers on the busiest streets. The number of for-hire vehicles in the city has surged past 100,000 from about 63,000 in 2015.