Urban Engines launches to use data to make city transportation better

Gigaom

Stanford computer science professor Balaji Prabhakar first became interested in how transportation systems move when, years ago, he got stuck in “the mother of all traffic jams” in India. Now, after two years in stealthy development, Prabhakar and his co-founder, former Google(s GOOG) exec Shiva Shivakumar, are launching a startup called Urban Engines that is using data, algorithms and behavioral economics to help make cities less congested and urban transportation operate more efficiently.

In an office in downtown San Francisco this week, six stories above the blaring horns of buses and cars running up and down Market Street, Shivakumar and Prabhakar showed me a screen of a train system that could be any big city in the world — Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Bangalore. Prabhakar clicked the play button and we watched a geometrical visualization of the flow of train commuters moving into stations, getting on trains and getting off at…

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