There are nearly 14,000 taxes cruising around New York City. Just think of all that stop-and-go pollution, not to mention traffic congestion. A new study says that just 3,000 ride-sharing cars could replace nearly every single one of those taxis. In an article published by MIT’s CSAIL, researchers found that by using ride-sharing carpools, we could reduce traffic, fuel consumption and pollution dramatically.

Using data from 3 million NYC taxi trips, the CSAIL team created an algorithm that showed current vs potential ride use. That algorithm showed that 3,000 dedicated ride-share cars could replace 98% of taxis in the city. If those cars were larger – say a 10-person van – that number could drop down to just 2,000 cars. And if you are worried about what that would do to your commute time, don’t. The average wait would only be 2.7 minutes.

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“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,” said Professor Daniela Rus, who led the study. “What’s more, the system is particularly suited to autonomous cars, since it can continuously reroute vehicles based on real-time requests.”

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The system would require adjusting the way ride-sharing works right now. “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,” Rus said. Right now, rider B needs to be on the route that rider A is taking, but the new system would allow re-assigning riders and calculate the best vehicle for the trip.

“Ride-sharing services have enormous potential for positive societal impact with respect to congestion, pollution and energy consumption,” said Rus. “It’s important that we as researchers do everything we can to explore ways to make these transportation systems as efficient and reliable as possible.”

+ CSAIL