Los Angeles city and Uber Technologies in electric scooter data row
Uber’s electric scooters could be removed from LA streets in 10 days if company doesn't comply with city regulations
The city of Los Angeles is threatening to remove Uber Technologies’ fleet of electric scooters from its streets in an escalating row over data collection.
The company has been told by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation that if it doesn't comply with regulations, or request a hearing with the authorities in 10 days, its scooter licence could be permanently revoked,
The city is insisting that the company meets the requirements of its Mobility Data Specification – a platform city officials developed to track the number and movements of scooters around the city. MDS enables city authorities to prevent scooters being dumped in popular areas and provides data that the city claims helps shape future transport planning.
Uber, which operates scooters in Los Angeles through its Jump brand, argues that the regulations are invasive to customer privacy.
“We believe that [the Los Angeles Department of Transportation] requirements to share sensitive on-trip data compromises our customers’ expectations of data privacy and security,” an Uber spokesperson told The WSJ.
The city has responded by saying that the data collected is anonymised to protect the riders.
Uber will be able to operate within Los Angeles temporarily but if it doesn't request a hearing with LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds within 10 days, its scooters will be removed from the streets.
Electric scooters are very popular in Los Angeles with 32,000 vehicles registered to eight companies including Bird Rides and Lyft. The city authorities have said that every company apart from Uber has complied with its request.
The ongoing row could have profound implications for scooter use not just in Los Angeles but around the globe.
Meera Joshi, a visiting scholar at New York University and a former head of New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, told the WSJ, “Because so many other cities are adopting the LA data standards, whatever happens will have a ripple effect: either it’ll embolden other cities or have a chilling effect.”
European cities take different approaches to scooter use. Paris has more than 20,000 scooters, though using one on a road in the UK could lead to a £300 fine for the owner.
A study conducted by Grand View Research earlier this year concluded that the global electric scooters market size is expected to reach $41.98bn by 2030.