Carpooling through Uber and Lyft could dramatically cut down on traffic by 75%

Study finds carpool apps could greatly reduce traffic

In news that won’t make any cab driver happy, a study from MIT found that using carpool options could dramatically reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 75% without impacting travel time.


The study suggested that if commuters in New York used the carpooling options from Uber and Lyft – UberPool and Lyft Line, apps which allow strangers to share a ride for a reduced fare – urban congestion in the city could be greatly reduced.

The study designed an algorithm by compiling data from three million taxi rides to understand how New Yorkers got around by vehicles. The system plans routes cars take, prioritizes busy areas and adjusts often, based on requests that come in. It suggests the best vehicle to use for certain routes on what would be most efficient, like a van or shuttle.

The more people that would use the system, the more efficient it would become.

The study was led by Professor Daniela Rus of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). It ultimately found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98 percent of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. In addition, 95% of demand would be covered by just 2,000 ten-person vehicles, compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City.

“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,” said Rus in a CSAIL article. “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air and shorter, less stressful commutes.”

The team even put out a video to showcase their findings. The team's article was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS).

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.