Carpooling services provided by ridesharing companies Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. could reduce the number of cars on the road by 75 percent, says a study from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Both Uber and Lyft provide carpooling options for riders, including UberPOOL and Lyft Line — but not in Austin. Still, the California-based companies aim to return here sometime this year and many hope they'll help curb what's often cited as Austin's biggest problem: traffic.
“Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, (resulting) in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money,” MIT professor Daniela Rus, who led the study, said in a statement. “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air and shorter, less stressful commutes.”
The study, which can be seen here, also highlights how professional carpooling might help the environment by reducing the amount of carbon emissions created by cars on the road.
"In cities where UberPool is available, Uber customers choose the carpool option for 20 percent of trips, according to the ride-hailing company," the East Bay Times reports.
"In the first seven months of 2016, the company says, if Uber riders had driven alone instead of sharing their rides, they would have traveled in excess of 312 million more miles — using more than 6 million gallons of gas and emitting 55,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide."
Still, ridesharing companies continue to face criticism that they actually create more traffic, particularly when not being used as carpooling options.
“Much of the increase San Francisco has experienced in vehicular traffic can be attributed to the huge increase in the number of [ride-hail] vehicles operating on city streets,” the SFMTA wrote in a letter to regulators last month.