Cab sharing could be exactly this great: MIT’s Senseable City Lab


The urban living experts at MIT’s Senseable City Lab have mathematically modeled the benefits of sharing a cab using the 150 million trips by more than 13,000 New York City cabs in 2011. 

Almost 95 percent of those rides could be shared, the researchers find. Also, those shared rides could have cut the time on the road by 40 percent, they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The data comes from the HubCab data source of New York City cab pickups and drop-offs hosted by the lab.

A team led by visiting researcher Paolo Santi and Carlo Ratti, head of the group, explains that that such a system would translate to cuts in emissions and traffic congestion, as well as untold improvements to the sanity of commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic.

As anyone who’s hopped a shared ride from the airport knows, multiple stops increases travel time. The researchers factored this in to their calculations as well: Each customer willing to share a ride wouldn’t be delayed more than five minutes, they say.

Using such a system could be as simple as hitting a button on a smartphone app to indicate that you’d be willing to share your cab and split the fare, Santi suggests.

Another benefit this simulation is that it’s speedy and could work in real time.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at [email protected]
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