How Uber Uses Your Ride Data

Face it, if you're one of its regular customers, Uber knows more about you than your own mother does. It knows how often you get out, where you like to have lunch, where you go at night and when, or whether, you go home at the end of it.

Key Takeaways

  • Uber's data collection system is constantly in motion to match up drivers and riders. Its "surge pricing" draws in more drivers as needed.
  • The company has made a number of marketing alliances, including many in the travel space.
  • Its biggest rival, Lyft, has concentrated on partnering with medical services providers to provide non-emergency transport.

That makes Uber potentially a giant data-mine, just like Google, Visa, or Facebook. All of those companies can use the data to run their businesses more efficiently or develop their services more effectively. Or, they can sell it in batches to advertisers for delivery of customized advertising and promotions.

Here are some of the ways that Uber is using its data so far.

The Uber Disclaimer

First, it should be noted that Uber states that the data it constantly collects on both riders and drivers is "anonymized and aggregated."

Whatever its other uses, the data is critical to its efficient 24-hour operation in more than 900 cities around the world. Uber knows where customers are waiting and where drivers are cruising, and it has to put them together fast. Tracking supply and demand allows them to implement "surge pricing," boosting fares at peak times to draw more drivers out.

Marketing Partnerships

Uber's customer base of mobile urban professionals is catnip to marketers looking for partners. The company has made the most of it, signing deals with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, American Airlines, Hilton Hotels, American Express, Capital One, PayPal, and Pepsi.

These partnerships can take many forms. Starwood offered extra points to Preferred Guest members who took Uber rides. American Airlines added an Uber reminder button to its app. Pepsi gave free DeLorean rides to London Uber riders.

Uber's top competitor, Lyft, has also been active in the co-marketing space. It has been particularly successful in attracting partners like Allscripts and Blue Cross Blue Shield to expand its ride services for non-emergency healthcare transportation. 

Municipal Partners

If anybody is in need of some traffic data, it's America's city planners.

Starting with an initiative in Boston that began in 2015, Uber handed over data to city planners in hopes that it would help them understand how people move around Boston, or at least how they try to.

The reach of the AMBER Alert program was broadened by adding Uber's drivers to its notifications of missing children.

That experiment reportedly had mixed success in delivering information that was of use to city planners and policymakers trying to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

However, Uber is still trying. It has launched a site called Uber Movement that includes a searchable database of historical trip data from every city in which it does business.

AMBER Alert Program

Uber has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to provide time-sensitive and critical AMBER Alerts to its drivers across the U.S.

According to Robert Hoever, director of special programs for NCMEC, “The AMBER Alert program’s success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages. Uber’s presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the AMBER Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely.” 

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  2. Uber. "Use Uber in Cities around the World."

  3. Uber. "How Surge Pricing Works."

  4. Uber. "Revving Up Rider Rewards With Starwood Hotels."

  5. American Airlines. "American Airlines and Uber Make Travel Even Easier."

  6. Uber. "Fancy a Ride to the Future?"

  7. Blue Cross Blue Shield. "Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Lyft Join Forces to Increase Access to Health Care in Communities with Transportation Deserts."

  8. Allscripts. "Allscripts Sunrise™ EHR, Open Platform and Lyft’s API Enable Clinicians to Offer Non-Emergency Transportation to Patients."

  9. Uber. "Driving Solutions To Build Smarter Cities."

  10. Uber. "Announcing Our Nationwide AMBER Alert Program."

  11. Boston Globe. "Highly Touted Boston-Uber Partnership Has Not Lived up to Hype So Far."