Uber is partnering with weather technology company ClimaCell to enable more accurate estimated time of arrival (ETA) predictions for drivers and riders.
Founded in 2016, Boston-based ClimaCell specializes in real-time weather forecasts. Rather than relying on government data typically garnered from satellites, it leverages myriad sources closer to the ground. The company’s platform leans on data gleaned from the internet of things (IoT), which may include connected cars, drones, cameras, airplanes, cellular signals, and even more traditional sources. This big data melting pot is what ClimaCell refers to as the “Weather of Things.”
In terms of how this fits with Uber and ride-hailing, well, the correlation between weather and traffic flow is generally well understood — research has indicated that rain can reduce traffic speed by up to 12%, for example. Snow, fog, and icy surfaces can also create more hazardous driving conditions, which can cause accidents, exacerbating already slowing traffic.
But accuracy of the data is key, and real-time, hyper-local weather predictions can help industries such as aviation, construction, outdoor events, and transportation plan better. Uber will use ClimaCell’s HyperCast software, which includes a dashboard that displays minute-by-minute local weather data from around the globe, covering rain, lightning, air quality, and more.
ClimaCell has raised nearly $80 million since its inception, with big-name backers including SoftBank and Ford. It has also nabbed a number of notable clients — airlines such as Delta, United, and JetBlue, as well as Amazon (AWS) and Ford.
Big data is the secret sauce behind many modern digital services, from issuing life insurance policies to unlocking insights into cities and improving transport. Just last week, delivery and logistics giant UPS announced a new dynamic routing feature that combines real-time data points to find the optimum route for delivery drivers.
Uber is no stranger to big data — it partners with third parties such as PredictHQ to forecast demand surges by aggregating data sets from events such as public holidays, observances, concerts, and festivals. And Uber has long used weather data to help estimate travel times. By tapping ClimaCell, Uber hopes to improve its predictive smarts and give everyone a better idea of how long their trip will actually take.