Over 13,000 taxis roam the streets of New York City, but those gas-sucking, polluting vehicles could be replaced by ride-sharing cars, according to a new MIT study. Drawing on an innovative algorithm, researchers discovered 3,000 four-passenger cars could fulfill 98 percent of the city’s taxi demand, with passengers waiting around a mere 2.7 minutes for their ride. Less cars on the road would mean less traffic and less pollution, and MIT researchers even say drivers would make as much money as they do today.
Researchers led by Daniela Rus of MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) developed an algorithm which utilizes data from three million cab rides. The algorithm reveals carpooling options from companies like Lyft or Uber could take thousands of cars off the road and even vastly improve commutes.
Rus said in a statement, "Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, results in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money. A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air, and shorter, less stressful commutes."
Going a step further, just 2,000 10-person vehicles could fulfill 95 percent of taxi demand. MIT’s algorithm can also work to reroute cars, in real time, and proactively dispatch idle vehicles to high-demand locales, accelerating service by 20 percent, according to the researchers.
Rus said the system could be easily adapted for autonomous cars, as vehicles are rapidly rerouted to fulfill requests. She said, "To our knowledge, this is the first time that scientists have been able to experimentally quantify the trade-off between fleet size, capacity, waiting time, travel delay, and operational costs for a range of vehicles, from taxis to vans and shuttles." The Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences recently published the team’s research.