What would New York City streets be like without the swarm of yellow taxi cabs that pepper its busy streets?
A research group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wants to find out.
With the goal of decreasing emissions and easing traffic, the research team is zeroing in on a better way to traverse Manhattan: carpooling.
By making better use of the carpooling services offered by ride share apps like Uber, the MIT team — led by Daniela Rus — says New York City could reduce its 14,000-vehicle taxi population to about 3,000 cabs, according to a Boston Globe report.
And with 11,000 fewer cabs on the road, Rus said, commuters would only spend about five minutes more traveling.
With carpooling, “we have fewer vehicles, we have less pollution and we have a better travel situation for everyone,” Rus told the Globe. The same approach could be applied globally, leading to less crowded streets and cleaner air in cities around the world, she said.
MIT tested its theory in a simulation based on one week's worth of rides — about 3 million trips, according to a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using improved routing systems developed by the MIT team, researchers found 98 percent of trips could be handled using just 3,000 cars thanks to carpooling, and would add five minutes or less to each trip.
The biggest question will be how to convince travelers to opt in to carpooling options, Rus said.