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Uber to reveal ride details with Boston to help ease traffic woes

The ride-sharing service says the data, compiled in a way that protects driver and rider privacy, can be used to reduce congestion, expand transportation options and even identify potholes.

For the first time, Uber has agreed to share trip-related data with a city. Uber

Though it has been reluctant to disclose trip-related data in the past, ride-sharing service Uber announced Tuesday that it plans to share its data with the city of Boston in the hopes it will help the city improve the transportation landscape.

Uber's so-called "smart data" will include trip details, such as time stamps on Uber rides, where trips began and ended, distances traveled and trip duration. The data will be collected in a manner that retains the privacy of both drivers and riders, the company said.

This is the first time Uber has offered to provide such data to a city, and Boston might seem an unlikely place. Last month, an Uber driver was arrested there for allegedly raping a woman. It was the fourth time a customer of ride-sharing services in the Boston area, including Uber, had reported an assault or inappropriate touching in December, according to the Boston Globe.

The new partnership perhaps marks a new day. Uber said it believes its smart data will help city planners -- and presumably more cities in the future -- improve traffic planning, reduce congestion and identify streets that require improvement, like filling potholes. According to Uber, the data will be shared by ZIP Code Tabulation Area, which is the "US Census' geographical representation of ZIP codes."

"This will help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighborhoods and allow us to think smarter, finding more innovative and creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges," Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement Tuesday.

The collaborative effort is a detour from recent developments between Uber and the city of New York, where the municipal Taxi & Limousine Commission this month shut down all but one of Uber's operations centers because the company failed to share trip data -- such as where passengers were picked up -- as the city had requested. Uber said that providing such information would give competitors, like taxi companies, an unfair advantage.

Why the collaboration in Boston but conflict in New York? Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Update 1:41 p.m. PT: "As we have grown, so has our ability to share information that can serve a greater good," an Uber spokeswoman said. "We look forward to partnering with cities across the country to deliver data that will help cities achieve their transportation and planning goals without compromising personal privacy."

Uber's operational challenges extend well beyond the East Coast of the US. Late last year, Uber was banned in New Delhi after the company was found to be operating without the proper license in the city and one of its drivers allegedly assaulted a female rider. Soon after, Uber was banned from Spain and Thailand, and it ignored warnings not to operate in South Korea. It also continued to operate in Portland, Ore., despite protests by the city, though it later agreed to suspend its service there for a few months.

Last week, Uber announced lower fares for 48 cities across the US including Atlanta, Dallas, Milwaukee and San Diego. Absent from the list were Boston and New York.

Uber has stated that its smart data will act as a "champion" for improving roadways. Only time will reveal if the data-sharing strategy will actually make for smart improvements to Boston's roadways.

Update 1:41 p.m. PT to include Uber's statement.