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Uber has a better way to map data

Since 2010, Uber has been tracking rides around the world, amassing an incredible trove of data.

Around 15 million people catch an Uber every day, and the company employs a team of 30 data scientists to make sense of this information using a tool called Kepler.gl. The platform converts data into beautiful map-based visualisations, and last month Uber made it available to anyone. Already, companies like Airbnb and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs are using it, according to Fast Company.

Simply upload your data and Kepler.gl will map it. Choose filters to help discover patterns and within minutes you’ll be armed with a better way to present your data to policy makers. It’s ideal for geospatial or location-based data analysis such as mapping bicycle trips or bus routes.

One reason Kepler.gl is so interesting is that Uber now knows more about how cities operate than many local government and transit authorities.

“At Uber, we leverage data visualization to better understand how our cities move,” it says, adding: “We create maps … to reveal geographic patterns and tell stories about human existence.”

Uber’s own data collection is mind-boggling. After launching in 2010, it tracked its billionth trip by 2015, and its second billionth trip by June 2016. Within six years, it expanded to 73 countries and over 450 cities.

Meanwhile, Uber has also been plagued by scandal after scandal. It was accused of price gouging during Hurricane Sandy; it has battled several lawsuits and survived the #DeleteUber movement.

Today, it’s trying to make amends. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi took the helm last August and moved quickly to introduce kinder company values, including: ‘We do the right thing. Period.’

While making Kepler.gl available open source won’t erase Uber’s scandals, it’s a good reminder that the brand is determined to change its image from being ruthless and unprincipled to being a generous brand that “celebrates differences” and is “customer obsessed”. The company is on track for an expected IPO in 2019 and is currently valued at $62 billion, according to the Financial Times.

Kepler.gl is now available on GitHub.