MIT study suggests cities should coordinate carpooling
March 29, 2022
by Christopher Carey
A study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed just how much carpooling competition is clogging city streets.
Working in conjunction with Italy’s National Research Council’s Institute of Computing and Telematics, the paper suggests that cities should use a single, unified platform to achieve an optimally sized ridesharing market.
“What this shows is that by not coordinating ride-sharing companies, we’re creating an enormous amount of extra traffic,” said Carlo Ratti, a professor in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). and co-author of the report. .
“If cities were to use a platform to coordinate carpooling, we could reduce overall congestion and traffic in cities around the world.”
Measure the impact
To conduct the study, the researchers used anonymized data on taxis in five cities: New York (for Manhattan only), San Francisco, Singapore, Vienna and Curitiba.
The number of recorded trips ranged from 300,000 in Vienna to 150 million in New York.
Using this data as a proxy for all ridesharing demand, the researchers then modeled the traffic flow needed to pick up passengers with optimal efficiency, as well as scenarios in which multiple companies competed independently of each other.
This approach allowed the team to isolate the effects of adding new ridesharing companies to a given market.
Ultimately, the researchers found that adding a standard-sized transport company to the market had varying effects on the number of vehicles that would be deployed in an attempt to meet demand.
In Manhattan, a new competitor entering the market would only increase the amount of transport vehicles by about 3%.
In Singapore the figure was 8% and in Curitiba 67%.
The figures represent what the researchers call the “cost of non-coordination” in the industry.
“If you allow everyone to optimize independently, it generates additional congestion. You don’t get the closest car – you might get an Uber car that’s further away, although there might be a car Lyft next to you,” Ratti added.
Requirement and speed
The main factors affecting the number of vehicles needed are the density of passenger demand and the average speed of traffic.
In Manhattan, where customers are closer together, adding a new company to the market would not dramatically change the number of vehicles deployed to support all customers.
In Curitiba, where passengers are more dispersed, a new ridesharing company operating alone would drive a much larger proportion of new vehicles on the road.
“If there’s really heavy demand, even if you don’t coordinate, you still have a good pool of vehicles to draw from. [nearby]and the efficiency is still quite good,” said Paolo Santi, research director at the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of the National Research Council of Italy.
“If you’re in a city without that density of demand, non-coordination is expensive. The other factor is traffic speed. In an uncoordinated market, you may need a vehicle further away. If the traffic speed is high, it may be fine, but if the traffic speed is low, it may be very inefficient to serve that customer. »
Image: Tony Webster (Flickr)