By on September 27, 2018

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) has joined Ford, Uber and Lyft to work with the data platform SharedStreets to glean a better understanding of America’s infrastructure. Their collective goal is to “make it easier for the private sector to work with cities around the world and leverage data to improve urban mobility.”

That means different things to different companies. For Uber and Lyft, aggregate data on passenger pickups and drop-offs could be useful in deciding where to deploy their vehicles. The information could also prove helpful in telling city planners how to best manage traffic patterns. Uber also said it would track speeders and what on types of roads people are more apt to drive dangerously. 

While effectively working toward the same ends, Lyft appears a little more focused on finding ways to minimize congestion. For the past year, ride-sharing platforms have taken criticisms for exacerbating urban congestion, with the problem likely to grow worse over the coming years. However, much of the onus to fix the problem lands on the shoulders of city planners. Uber and Lyft only seem to want to identify trouble spots and then leave NACTO to do the fixing by reworking streetlights and traffic pathways.

Ford says it wants to use SharedStreets to encourage the responsible pricing and management of curb space in real time. According to the press release, the automaker intends to provide a “down payment on a global, comprehensive roadway pricing mechanism that cities and companies can use to encourage sustainable transportation choices, reallocate road space, and reduce carbon emissions.”

Of course, this is also the kind of information Ford could use while developing its own commercial fleets. The company has already laid the groundwork for autonomous delivery and ride-hailing services in Miami, Florida.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for business and government to work together to rethink transportation,” said Jim Hackett, president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company. “Collaborating through initiatives such as Shared Streets will enable us to use vehicles, road systems and data together to create a new roadmap for mobility. We are working toward a future where all cities are smart and curb space is actively managed, increasing efficiency and safety, while reducing driver stress and pollution.”

Leadership from the other partner companies expressed a similar interest in using information to evolve the country’s roads. While SharedStreets’ stated goal is to provide open source data that business and cities can contribute to and use to improve all aspects of transportation, it’s also pressing for the development of universal standards for how that information is ultimately collected and shared.

That’s incredibly important for the future of autonomous vehicles and the companies that want to provide or use them. But it’s a little early to say what SharedStreets’ end game is. For now, it only appears interested in giving industry giants and policy makers an opportunity to collaborate. If it’s done altruistically, then we’re less likely to encounter a problem. Freer-flowing streets are good for everyone and someone has to figure out how to manage all the driving data now being collected.

However, SharedStreets is entirely dependent on member cities and private sector partners for its existence. Those for-profit companies are likely to have plenty to say when it comes time to decide how the data should be managed and what lessons should be taken from it. Being able to collaborate with policy makers on an issue may turn out to be just as good as influencing them to see your perspective.


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2 Comments on “Auto Coalition Joins Forces With NATCO to Rethink City Streets, Share Driving Data...”

  • avatar

    Data collection–good; letting any operator or OEM have a say in making changes–not good.

    What’s needed more than anything is for the vehicles themselves to communicate with the traffic management system (and each other) to really offer the best flow control.

  • avatar

    Don’t most passengers want Uber drivers to speed so they reach their destinations faster?

    If the speed limit on Interstate 95 is 65 and everyone goes 80, how is that handled? If we forced Uber drivers to go 65 we would most likely increase accidents!

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