Back in the ‘70s the oil and energy crisis brought rationing to the public attention, and carpooling became a huge thing. Neighbors would come together to take turns bringing their car and taking everyone to work, and it was a very effective way to save time, money and gas. Today, carpooling has turned into ridesharing, and although the concept is similar, it has changed in many ways with advances in technology and the needs of a people in a fast-paced world.
Ride sharing works on a very simple principle: using a smartphone app, you call a service to schedule a point-to-point ride with a private-vehicle. This alone saves you both time (as there is no need to find parking, one of the more time consuming parts of driving) and money (as there is no need to purchase and maintain a vehicle). But when combined with the carpooling option by scheduling other riders in the car on the same trip, each individual pays less. More importantly, less cars are needed to service more people.
It is this reduction in the actual number of cars needed that creates the impetus behind the ride-sharing concept, and it’s what also results in a variety of environmental and beneficial effects. So how exactly is ride-sharing saving the world? Let’s take a closer look.
Less cars means less traffic, and more time
Obviously with less cars needed, this means less traffic as less cars are congesting the road. Studies have pegged the cost of annual traffic congestion at $160 billion for the United States, with 7 billion hours of time lost to people who are stuck in traffic. That adds up to 3 billion gallons of fuel, and a cost of $960 per commuter.
A study from the Arizona State University however crunched out the math, and found that ride sharing has saved more than $1 billion from 2011 to 2016, or about 33 million hours and 30 million gallons of fuel. There’s still a lot more work to be done, but as ride-sharing becomes more ubiquitous we’ll be seeing those numbers catchup with the first study.
But does this really save time for the individual on the average trip? Logically speaking, if several passengers are on a trip, the car must make several stops to pick up a passenger, and may need to go out of the way just to pick a passenger up. That should take time, and that in itself would negate the time advantage of carpooling.
Interestingly enough, MIT came up with a mathematical model using existing historical ride-sharing data in New York of over 150 million trips and found a way to optimize ride-sharing by having ride requests within a one minute window matched, so that no interruptions would be needed in a route other than to pick up a passenger along the way. This means no re-routing is needed to make ride-sharing work, saving time for everyone.
So yes, ride-sharing can indeed save us from the woes of congestion and save us both time and money.
It cuts down on emissions
Greenhouse gases are one of the biggest environmental concerns. As more carbon dioxide and other emissions from automobiles clog up the atmosphere, climate change accelerates, causing a multitude of problems for the planet and the people in it.
Transportation emissions actually surpassed the amount of emissions caused by power plant electricity production back in 2016. At the time, 28.5% of emissions came from vehicles burning fuel, while only 28.4% came from power plants. Reducing the amount of emissions from transportation has never been more important. A study from MIT shows that ride-sharing can reduce the total number of cars on the road by three. That would cut down emissions by a third, making a huge dent in the greenhouse gas emissions caused by automobiles.
It brings people together
Travel isn’t just about getting from one place to another. The journey matters as much as the destination. And that’s where ride-sharing has a distinct impact on the average commuter’s day. Ride-sharing will usually have four or more people sharing the same vehicle. Regardless of how short or how long the ride is, you now have four people from various walks of life meeting and sharing something about themselves with each other.
Having even the briefest of conversation during the trip will open people’s minds and help break down barriers between different cultures, social classes and perspectives. How many times have you had a conversation with a stranger while driving your own car? Ride-sharing presents that opportunity on every ride, and it’s a great way not just to bring people together, but to create trust in people outside of yourself and your inner circle, as well as with society as a whole.
And as ride-sharing expands with the concepts of mobility-as-a-service spanning global destinations and not just local trips in the same city, the benefits will be even better. It may seem insignificant, but it’s a good step towards true world peace.
It saves lives
Perhaps the most surprising and overlooked benefit of ride-sharing is how it saves lives. Drunk driving kills 29 people every day in the US, according to numbers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In 2016, 10,497 people died due to alcohol-impaired driving, which accounts for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the US.
Ride-sharing has actually helped reduce instances of drunken-driving. A survey from the Benenson Strategy Group shows us that 88% of respondents said that ride-sharing has allowed them to avoid driving home after having too much to drink. The importance of these numbers cannot be underscored, and it may be the single most important contribution of ride-sharing. You can always make more money, and there is always more time tomorrow. But a life, once lost, can never be replaced. Death takes away tomorrow, and that is time that is forever lost.