All those dockless scooters and e-bikes that have popped up on U.S. streets in the last couple years are doing more than providing last-mile transportation options. They also are generating a lot of data on trip patterns—just the kind of data some public agencies would love to get their hands on.
The cities want to gain insights into how micromobility is reshaping urban transportation so they can better manage their infrastructure. They also need to figure out how these transportation options should be regulated. But the push for data access has raised concerns about privacy.
In response, SAE International has drawn together various players, including public agencies, researchers and transportation providers, into a consortium that will create a set of best practices for sharing micromobility trip data.
The Mobility Data Collaborative launched the week of Dec. 8, stating that its initial focus is on protecting data privacy and on developing standard definitions and methods of measuring the performance of micromobility providers.
The consortium will not share raw data but instead establish a common framework for ride-sharing operators and other stakeholders to share data. Trip data that includes location coordinates and timestamps could potentially narrow down or expose a user's identity based on the start or end locations of the trip, or other factors.
Among the founding members of the consortium are Uber, Lyft and scooter companies Bird and Spin.
Annie Chang, head of new mobility and global ground vehicle standards at SAE International and director of the collaborative, told Automotive News that operators and cities have struggled to integrate micromobility services into new communities without having such guidance.
"You're not able to compare apples to apples even in one city," Chang said.
Though the group is an arm of SAE International, the best practices are not yet official standards, although the possibility exists.
"We know a lot of folks have this idea that companies don't necessarily want to share the data that they're trying to protect, but I personally don't think that is the case. I think it's a matter of figuring out how to do it effectively, streamline the process," Chang said. "I think everybody realizes that this data is valuable. And frankly speaking, if this data is used to plan better bike infrastructure, that will also benefit the operators because users will feel very comfortable and safe using those services, so I think it's a feedback loop that we need to appreciate and take advantage of."