Linux forms Urban Computing Foundation: Set of open source tools to build autonomous vehicles and smart infrastructure

Facebook, Google, IBM and Uber among the founding members

3 min read

The Linux Foundation, nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, on Tuesday announced the formation of the Urban Computing Foundation (UCF). UCF will accelerate open source software to improve mobility, safety, road infrastructure, traffic congestion and energy consumption in connected cities.

UCF’s mission is to enable developers, data scientists, visualization specialists and engineers to improve urban environments, human life quality, and city operation systems to build connected urban infrastructure.

The founding members of UCF are Facebook, Google, IBM, UC San Diego, Interline Technologies, Uber etc. The executive director of Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin spoke to Venturebeat, and said the Foundation will adopt an open governance model developed by the Technical Advisory Council (TAC), which will include technical and IP stakeholders in urban computing who’ll guide its work through projects by review and curation.

The intent, added Zemlin, is to provide platforms to developers who seek to address traffic congestion, pollution, and other problems plaguing modern metros.

Here’s the list of TAC members:

  1. Drew Dara-Abrams, principal, Interline Technologies
  2. Oliver Fink, director Here XYZ, Here Technologies
  3. Travis Gorkin, engineering manager of data visualization, Uber
  4. Shan He, project leader of, Uber
  5. Randy Meech, CEO, StreetCred Labs
  6. Michal Migurski, engineering manager of spatial computing, Facebook
  7. Drishtie Patel, product manager of maps, Facebook
  8. Paolo Santi, senior researcher, MIT
  9. Max Sills, attorney, Google

On Tuesday, Facebook announced their participation as a founding member of the Urban Computing Foundation (UCF).

Facebook mentions in its post that, “We are using our expertise — including a predictive model for mapping electrical grids, disaster maps , and more accurate population density maps — to improve access to this type of technology”.

Further Facebook mentions that UCF will establish a neutral space for the critical work. It will include adapting geospatial and temporal machine learning techniques for urban environments and developing simulation methodologies for modeling and predicting citywide phenomena.

Uber also reported about their joining and announced their contribution of as the initiative’s first official project. Kepler is Uber’s open source, no-code geospatial analysis tool for creating large-scale data sets. It was released in 2018, and is currently used by Airbnb, Atkins Global, Cityswifter, Lime, Mapbox, Sidewalk Labs, and UBILabs, among others to generate visualizations of location data.

While all of this set a path towards making of smarter cities, it also raises an alarm to another way of violating privacy and mishandling user data as per the history in tech. Moreover when recently Amnesty International in Canada regarded the Google Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto to normalize mass surveillance and a direct threat to human rights. Questions are raised as to the tech companies forming foundation to address traffic congestion issue but not to address the privacy violation or online extremism.

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