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Transportation United States Technology

3,000 Ride-Sharing Cars Could Replace Every Cab in New York City, MIT Study Says (theverge.com) 124

All 13,000 taxis in New York City could be replaced by a fleet of 3,000 ride-sharing cars if used exclusively for carpooling, according to research published today by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). From a report: Instead of hailing taxis, passengers that use ride-sharing services for carpooling may lead to reduced traffic congestion, pollution, and fuel use. The CSAIL researchers used public data from NYC taxi rides published by the University of Illinois to develop the algorithm. They calculated that 3,000 four-person vehicles travelling to similar destinations could meet 98 percent of taxi demand in the city with an average wait time of 2.7 minutes. Perhaps the most important part of the system is a dynamic repositioning of vehicles based on real-time demand, which makes the system 20 percent faster.
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3,000 Ride-Sharing Cars Could Replace Every Cab in New York City, MIT Study Says

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:02AM (#53597051)

    The major selling point of a taxi is that the backseat is all mine. Now I have to share a car with two other people, or a van with how many people?

    No thanks.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Agree. I hate carpooling. I absolutely hate it.

      Hate getting involved when the other cheapo customer get pissed off with the driver when I think it was fine.

      Hate the car turning back near the original pickup location to pickup someone else after we left for 10 mins.

      I'll rather pay more.

      I love Uber, but I HATE Uberpool.

      • The worst are those airport taxi vans (like Super Shuttle). It's fine when you can fill up the van with your group, but when you end up splitting the van with several people there is always someone who isn't even remotely ready to be picked up at the scheduled time.

      • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

        I love Uber, but I HATE Uberpool.

        Does Uberpool make them more money?
        They were pushing it pretty hard before. For a while I had to spend 10-30 seconds to get out of the uberpool offer attempts and order a regular Uber.

        • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @02:06PM (#53599349)

          I love Uber, but I HATE Uberpool.

          Does Uberpool make them more money?

          They were pushing it pretty hard before. For a while I had to spend 10-30 seconds to get out of the uberpool offer attempts and order a regular Uber.

          As an Uber driver, Pool makes Uber money mainly because the pay to the driver is MUCH lower. And this matters because Uber has had to subsidize what drivers are paid versus the fare charged to riders. This is why Uber is losing so much money. Pool rides charge significantly lower fares and pay the drivers far less.

          Meanwhile it does two useful things for Uber: One, it keeps the riders using Uber versus a competing service or transport method. They want that mindshare lock. Two, it keeps the Uber drivers busy and saturated with work in many cases, which keeps them out on the roads and makes them available for other pool riders or Uber Eats or XL services. Uber's biggest weakness is not having cars available when riders want them so this helps address that.

          Uber Eats is Pool for food and it's getting a huge push. It sucks for drivers because you end up stuck at restaurants waiting for food to be ready. Restaurants HATE IT because the Uber tablets nag them to accept the order and immediately dispatch a driver to pick it up long before the food is ready, and if the restaurant does not acknowledge the order in a hurry, Uber starts calling them to nag. Uber Eats also pays drivers a pittance and we end up with bad reviews because the food is cold, which is not our fault. They stack multiple order pick ups and we have to wait wait wait for all of them to be ready, so even if one order IS ready, we have to wait for the next one. And we're sitting there making zero money while all this goes on.

          And then the food stinks up the car which makes human riders mad.

          Meanwhile. Pool is a disaster for drivers who could make, say $15 on an XL run would instead make $3.75 on a Pool ride, both being before gas and taxes are taken out. I've had Pool riders where the trip generated under two dollars to me. Less than bus fare! And that was on a 15 mile trip pickup from the airport far out in the suburbs. With the fuel cost, I absolutely lost money on that run. And it should be noted, Drivers has no idea what the destination is or the fare until after they have picked up the rider. So I didn't know I would only be paid two bucks or even WHY only two bucks.

          Additionally, there is a lot of confusion among riders on what Pool even means. I picked up a couple going to the airport with luggage. They were under a time constraint to make their flight. Not normally an issue but they had chosen Pool because they had two people and figured that's what you do when you have two people. They had no idea what Pool meant.

          Uber immediately paired up these travellers with a sweaty man going home from the gym. It was on our way but it added at least 15 minutes to the trip due to really bad traffic I could have otherwise avoided. It threatened to make these people late and caused a lot of concern. It definitely did make them very unhappy as they'd wanted a fast ride to the airport and got a smelly shared ride with a man who also got angry that the other people were mad at him. The car was also totally full of people and luggage and gym bags at that point so nobody enjoyed any of it and I had a car full of pissed off people.

          I could not cancel Gym Dude before pickup because that would affect my ratings and anyway Uber would just assign another Pool rider to me, maybe worse than the one I had. I could not expedite the airport drop off because Gym Dude was on the way, technically, even if his side trip dragged us into bad traffic. Everybody ended up unhappy on that run, through zero fault of mine. I got one star rated by both parties and of course no tips.

          So I contacted Uber Support and demanded to be let out of Pool. I don't need passengers almost fighting in my car over something I can'

    • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:14AM (#53597087) Homepage

      New York City has plenty of great public transportation options for folks who are willing to ride with others. Cabs are for the times when you're not.

      • a lot of lazy people here who might work a 15 minute walk from the train and will take a cab to the subway or Penn Station. i'm by the Hudson some days and have no problem walking the walk to Penn but lots of cabs and Ubers around here picking people up at the end of the day

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then you'll ride for longer and more expensive. At some point motorists need to realize it's not sustainable to occupy 20 square meters and 2 metric tons to move 80 kilograms over a few kilometres at a slower pace than a bicycle weighing 12 kilograms.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )

        Absolutely. It will come down to costs.

        Do you want to pay $22 for a human driving private cab or $10 (or even less) for a shared car.

        People will be free to choose their option so everyone wins.

        People do astonishing things for a few pennies. Give up their privacy. Queue up for an an extra 40 minutes. Shop on certain days. Buy two of a product when they are barely likely to use one.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The major selling point of a taxi is that the backseat is all mine. Now I have to share a car with two other people, or a van with how many people?

      No thanks.

      I know. I have the same problem with discount hookers.

    • I always considered the main selling point of the Taxi was the sweet-smelling driver, impeccable upholstery, and the stimulating-eloquent dialogue with the well-spoken man being the wheel.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

        I prefer taxis because I have a very particular fetish for smelly Iranian men yelling at me in broken English.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If NYC people want to carpool, there is a fast, reliable, inexpensive carpool service. Its called the subway.

  • by SumDog ( 466607 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:13AM (#53597083) Homepage Journal

    This makes a ton of sense in NYC which is already saturated with high capacity rail systems. If you made these car share vehicles self driving and electric, you have the potential for an amazing last leg solution.

    Ride sharing (zip cars, and eventually automated vehicles) will be the future, but people do need to be aware in such a future, people will most likely not "own" cars any longer. But for this to work, they can only be a last leg. Ride shares and self driving cars will NOT solve the transportation gridlock problem. Cars simply do not have the capacity of real public transit:

    http://penguindreams.org/blog/self-driving-cars-will-not-solve-the-transportation-problem/

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Ride shares and self driving cars will NOT solve the transportation gridlock problem. Cars simply do not have the capacity of real public transit:

      MIT just showed that there is real potential for self driving cars to help the gridlock problem by reducing the number of cars on the road while still meeting the demand for point to point non-mass transit transportation.

      In the sense that new technology can effectively increase capacity of the existing road network it is likely that new growth will simply take up the slack and result in more gridlock. Which is good in the sense that it enables economic growth up to the new capacity, but it would be better

      • Any additional sharing of rides will result in less vehicles on the road. But also no more driving around looking for a parking space so there is a double benefit. If we could get rid of half of the parking lots on the cities and do something more productive with them, we would live in a much different world. I've heard that 65% of the surface area of Los Angeles is dedicated to cars.
        • by bigpat ( 158134 )

          Any additional sharing of rides will result in less vehicles on the road. But also no more driving around looking for a parking space so there is a double benefit. If we could get rid of half of the parking lots on the cities and do something more productive with them, we would live in a much different world. I've heard that 65% of the surface area of Los Angeles is dedicated to cars.

          Autonomous cars will still need to park somewhere relatively close by to be useful. But parking/car storage can be further away than walking distance, so a 5 to 10 minute drive away instead of 5 minute walk. And if there can be fewer cars then that really does free up space for new development in desirable areas. Where car storage can go into vacant lots and industrial areas further away.

          But I think planners need to be more careful than they have been in the past in permitting greater and greater densit

          • If we really want to invest in making cities more livable and in reducing traffic we could employ grade separation. Have all of the sidewalks elevated so pedestrians don't mix with traffic. Normally this is done in a craptastic way making pedestrians go up and down stairs at each intersection. But if sidewalks were uniformly elevated and there were entrances at the elevated level cities would be better for cars and people.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Ride sharing (zip cars, and eventually automated vehicles) will be the future, but people do need to be aware in such a future, people will most likely not "own" cars any longer. But for this to work, they can only be a last leg. Ride shares and self driving cars will NOT solve the transportation gridlock problem. Cars simply do not have the capacity of real public transit:

      I think for long or cost sensitive rides most people would be willing to swap vehicles, like you do with bus/tram/subway lines in public transport or how you could combine that and taxis today. The big difference is that SDCs barely cost money when they're not moving. Taxi companies set big minimums because the driver has to make a decent wage per hour worked, idle time and unpaid overhead costs tons of money. And once you're out working, you don't turn on and off like a faucet. Sure it would mean more mone

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:17AM (#53597109)

    "All 13,000 taxis in New York City could be replaced by a fleet of 3,000 ride-sharing cars..."

    Gee, I wonder how many jobs that will create in this new glorious economy.

    "...if used exclusively for carpooling."

    That's one hell of a caveat to put on these efficiency metrics, given the amount of times drunk people not needing a carpool to work use taxi cabs.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or the fact that buses already exist and for some reason people still take a cab for themselves. Oh, wait, cabs are inherently not a car pooling service. So this isn't even a caveat, its a blatantly screwed up analysis. This is equal to saying the solution to air travel issues is to take the train (in the USA) while ignoring the blatant differences and personal preferences.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        But one solution to air travel issues is not to use air travel. Air travel is just one piece of the whole solution to the problem of getting from A to B, and it's not even a necessary one, as most travel is not by air.

        There is a whole bunch of offerings, which can be put together to achieve the A->B transfer, and you not using air travel is even a solution for some of the air travel issues of others. They get shorter waiting queues and more available seats for instance, if you are not there on the same

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It is a solution and it is one that already exists and people have ignored. FFS are you that dense?

          The point is that if people wanted they can already carpool (or ride the bus) but people have ALREADY decided NOT to car pool because there are functional disadvantages/differences: (going to multiple locations, waiting on others, dealing with other people, lack of privacy, etc.).

          This is a study that shows a mathematical possible state of the world but does not mean that that state of the world is actually po

          • by Sique ( 173459 )
            On the contrary: People don't use air travel every day. 99% of all travel is not air travel.

            You are messing two things up: deciding against air travel for a specific trip, and abolishing air travel altogether.You are trying to make the one be the same than the other. Many issues with air travel can be solved by simply having less air travel.

      • Cabs and shared rides (I assume similar to UberPool) are a point-to-point service. No walking at either end. And 2.7 minute wait is much better than the average wait for a bus/subway. Plus with apps you know when the car is arriving so you can wait inside until the car is a minute or so away. With the bus you have to stand out in the weather for an unpredictable amount of time. Of course buses could also be improved this way. Better route maps (Google Maps does a good job) and real-time updates on whe
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:29AM (#53597177)
    Sounds like they just came up with a plan to use a bunch of smaller buses to replace taxis. What a novel concept.
    • by Immerial ( 1093103 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @09:47AM (#53597259) Homepage
      This could work... only if people would let it. The main complaint I see is ... but I don't want to sit with a stranger. What if these 3000 cars had individual compartments... complete with a comfy chair, newspaper/video of your choice, and a coffee? That might be enough for some folks. That plus having them dynamically allocated means not having to wait long and if you miss it/run late, schedule another one to pick you up.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's more to the point that rarely are people coming and going from IDENTICAL spots, isn't it?

        And if I've just grabbed a cab, I'm obviously not wanting to wait 5 or 10 minutes to pick up the next 1 or 2 people even if they're within a few blocks, and same at the drop-off.

        Sure, it happens people come and go from the SAME spot and are literally outside at the SAME time - in fact, I'd be happy if the algorithm popped up a message "hey that dude next to you is in your same boat, want to split this?"

        But otherwis

    • It is nothing like a bus. With a bus, you have to find a bus line that goes somewhere closer to your destination. Then walk to a stop for that bus. (can be several blocks) Then wait for the bus, a bus is not on the way to you, it will get there when it gets there.

      If you want to go "diagonal" in NYC, you're gonna usually need to do this twice.

      With MIT's solution, you get out your phone before you even get on the elevator and tap the place you want to go. It'll obviously remember your last few destination

      • This is exactly like a bus. A Taxi is a point to point system. A bus is a multi stop system where the route is developed to provide maximum usage and convenience. The difference here is the route is developed on the fly. It still has the same features as a bus route, but now they know exactly where the bus needs to be, and not just guessing the most convenient place. Originally bus routes were designed to replace trolley lines, which had to follow preinstalled tracks. The bus allowed for changes over time a
        • That's kind of like saying a "Saturn V is exactly like a bottle rocket". It's still an immense improvement in performance. And by on the fly choosing to sometimes carpool with others, you greatly reduce the amount of automated vehicles you need and the traffic added but with minimal increase in trip times. I don't know what the discount would be for choosing the "may be other passengers" option, but I would guess it might be half cost, because while the car can hold 4 I suspect it would often not find 3

  • Everyone pointing out the invalid assumptions of this study is missing the point. This research isn't about actually improving anything. It's about someone getting their MS or PhD and a couple professors getting their names on something to keep their publication rate up. Academia has no requirement for research to be useful. MIT is no different.
    • Everyone pointing out the invalid assumptions of this study is missing the point. This research isn't about actually improving anything. It's about someone getting their MS or PhD and a couple professors getting their names on something to keep their publication rate up. Academia has no requirement for research to be useful. MIT is no different.

      I'm sure having a nice job at Uber lined up is one of the goals as well.

    • It's about someone getting their MS or PhD and a couple professors getting their names on something to keep their publication rate up.

      I thought it was about a couple of professors moving up the tenure track for bringing in a nice chunk of Uber-sponsored research dollars.

    • I would give you mod points if I could.

      People forget that publishing a paper like this is often a requirement of getting a PhD. (the much dreaded "thesis paper")
      Just because they wrote a paper showing that this is the best way to do things, doesn't mean they think it would actually work.

  • and if there is an accident your on your own even more so with the GOP healthcare plan. You where in an taxi cash why should we have to pay out you need to sue the taxi co.

    • and if there is an accident your on your own even more so with the GOP healthcare plan. You where in an taxi cash why should we have to pay out you need to sue the taxi co.

      you're

      were

      a

      cab

      Plus a couple of missing periods.

      Yes, I know you wanted to contradict someone, but that doesn't really work well when you come across as illiterate....

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @10:37AM (#53597625)

    Medallions cost around $1 million each. Do you really think a ten billion dollar asset is just going to roll over and play dead?

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Medallions cost around $1 million each. Do you really think a ten billion dollar asset is just going to roll over and play dead?

      Whichever cities try to block autonomous taxis will be left behind economically. Even New York would eventually have to come around or else see their prosperity diminished.

      When a technology comes around that can both improve quality of life and increase prosperity through economic efficiency blocking it is not a viable option.

      • Giving up $500M in city revenue is not worth some vaguely stated increase in prosperity.

        It's great to be on the cutting edge of technology. But for that kind of revenue, why doesn't the city improve the current taxi system rather than let Uber in? Better systems and apps for drivers seems like a small price to pay in order to hang onto a rather significant revenue source.

        • by bigpat ( 158134 )

          Giving up $500M in city revenue is not worth some vaguely stated increase in prosperity.

          It's great to be on the cutting edge of technology. But for that kind of revenue, why doesn't the city improve the current taxi system rather than let Uber in? Better systems and apps for drivers seems like a small price to pay in order to hang onto a rather significant revenue source.

          City is going to get revenue one way or another. Autonomous vehicles wouldn't be tax free.

          I wouldn't assume we are talking about Uber.

          • It's not clear if autonomous vehicle registration would go to the city or state of NY.

            • by bigpat ( 158134 )

              It's not clear if autonomous vehicle registration would go to the city or state of NY.

              Sales/Use taxes, income taxes, property taxes, various fees... there are as many ways to collect tax revenue as there are to spend it.

              • Sure but if there are multiple taxes, but one of them isn't applied to autonomous vehicles that means the city won't be collecting the full amount. I doubt the city can get away with a special rate on sales/service tax for autonomous vehicles, and special rate for income tax or property tax seems very unlikely. Also autonomous vehicle operators wouldn't pay as much into taxes related to employment.
                Seems like it will be difficult for the city to recover the tax revenue lost in the switch to autonomous vehicl

    • I don't think they've cost anywhere near this ever since Uber came along. In fact I think they've already lost 50% of their value.
  • So I don't see a total replacement of NY Taxis. What I could see is that there would be an impact. The one thing that would be need is that the ride-sharing cars be given exclusive parking spots. And you would need a phone app to open the doors and start the engines. My suggestion is that all of these cars be Electric.
    • If nobody drove in NYC then there would be plenty of parking. There is a point of equilibrium when it comes to the number of cars in NYC, you're not likely to drive it to zero.

      Electric, CNG, LP, Fuel Cell, etc. there are a lot of alternative technology that is cleaner than petroleum fuel. Even wood gas is cleaner burning than gasoline and bio-diesel, not (usually) very efficient though.

  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @01:49PM (#53599213) Homepage

    Well, let's simplify... 12,000 / 4 = 3000... Holyshit, I just figured out their entire study!

  • so taxi cabs becoming smaller size buses
    really?!
  • who you you most like/hate to share a cab with ? Answers below please:

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The wait time is only one variable, how about the length of the trip to the destination?

    I have tried Uber Pool, and will never use them again. A trip that should have been 25 minutes point to point took over one and a half hours with Uber Pool, because the pickups/dropoffs forced the driver to stay on congested streets the entire way. Public transit would have been faster and cost 1/12 as much as Uber Pool. Even if this trip was more environmentally friendly than 3 passengers taking 3 separate taxis would h

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