Data generated by transport services including ride hailing should be shared, according to a Department for Transport strategy report.
Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy, published on 19 March, includes nine principles the government plans to use in developing and regulating urban transport. These include data sharing, integration – allowing joined up ‘mobility as a service’ options – and use of innovation to make more efficient use of road space, such as through sharing rides and consolidating freight.
The report raises specific criticisms of digital ride hailing services such as Uber. The US company, which was not named in the report, was refused an extension of its London operating licence in September 2017, then was granted a short 15-month licence following a court hearing in June 2018.
The report says that ride hailing services can depress public transport use, increase road congestion, exclude those who do not use digital services and payments and reduce people’s privacy.
It also mentions the risks of a provider abusing a monopoly: “Organisations that accumulate and withhold a significant share of transport data could limit the ability of local authorities to shape urban transport systems, or force them to pay for the privilege,” it says, adding that this could also be used to identify then raise prices for people with few transport options.
It presents data sharing as a partial solution to these risks: “As new privately run transport services become increasingly important in the transport system of today and tomorrow, they also need to play their part in sharing data, in a way that maintains individual privacy.”
Last year, a London Assembly committee said that online transport services should provide information to Transport for London, which already shares its own data in a variety of ways.
Possible licensing changes
The Government is undertaking a regulatory review, and will consider how regulation or other mechanisms should be used to support the sharing of transport data. This could include new licensing models under which companies generating data are incentivised to share it.
More generally, the report says the Government would encourage the sharing and harnessing of urban transport data by creating standards and platforms. Among examples, it includes Liverpool technology company Red Ninja, which has built a system that can re-time traffic lights ahead of emergency service vehicles which on average has cut ambulance response times by three minutes.
“The Government correctly identifies the unprecedented disruption facing the mobility sector in the UK, and critically the role that it plays shaping these future services,” said Matthew Evans, industry body techUK’s director of market programmes. “In setting out these principles it offers assurances to innovators and established operators on what is permissible and identify where regulatory changes will be needed.”
Image of report from the Department for Transport, Open Government Licence v3.0