Uber has a long history of holding its user and driver information close, especially when it entails valuable and potentially proprietary activity data. Because of the startup industry's brutally competitive nature, young and successful companies such as Uber often err toward secrecy, which can hurt their transparency in the short term. Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission issued the company a $7.6 million fine for failing to report accessibility and driver safety data back in 2014."Believe it or not, if you had a big data set and started to crunch the numbers, you'd be able to see an awful lot about their business—when and where they're most successful. Information abstracted from data like this could inform new or existing competitors," Dr. Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California, Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center, told me.
"Nobody had ever studied the environmental impact of ride-hailing companies before."
That doesn't mean ridesharing can't be environmentally friendly, though. In 2014, MIT researchers conducted a computational study of 172 million New York City taxi trips completed in 2011. By modeling different shareability networks throughout the city, the authors were able to see that certain carpooling algorithms were able to cut trip lengths by 40 percent or more, reducing driver costs, emissions, and rider fares. On average, they found, every trip within their sample set was shareable with 100 other trips.
"We don't want everyone chauffeured around the city. There's no room for that in San Francisco."